A few months back I created a series of small paintings based on an imaginary, long lost, culture. They fell somewhat outside my main body of work but it was an interesting and enjoyable series to create and I wanted to do more with the idea. So I decided to expand upon the original theme and explore it further, using various media and techniques developing the work as a stand alone project. The core idea is taken from a novel that I began writing years ago. The story was never completed to my satisfaction, and was set aside, now the underlying concept will become the springboard for this new work.
To set the stage I need to share a bit about one of the novel’s main characters, Mr Dankquart, since he is the lynchpin of the project and ultimately responsible for what will come.
Mr Victor W. Dankquart is a mysterious figure, a man who seems to simply appear out of thin air at the most opportune of times, and then slips silently off into the ether again. He’s a true individual, an anachronistic character who stands apart from the norm, and yet has a certain innate ability to blend in with the crowd, as if possessed of some sort of human camouflage. He claims to be a man of science, a master of many disciplines, including, but not limited to; archeologist, chemist, biologist, geologist, cartographer, engineer, astrophysicist, psychologist, phrenologist, medical doctor, veterinarian, mathematician, psychologist, and alchemist.
He’s a consummate collector with very diverse yet particular tastes. He reportedly collects old English postage stamps, dueling pistols, medieval grotesques, African hunting spears, German fountain pens, goblets, specifically those from the courts of certain French kings, clothing once worn by silent film star Kiko Burliegh (although he is quick to point out that they are in no way the same size, he being a rather trim figure and Kiko, a corpulent individual who reportedly died of heart failure while trying to consume an entire pot of Five-Alarm Chili to win a bet), certain models of tortoise shell spectacles, swizzle sticks from a prohibition era speakeasy, feathers from native american headdresses, antique snowshoes, skulls taken as battle trophies by a forgotten South American tribe, porcelain thimbles with bizarre floral embellishments, and who knows what else. It is said that he owns, among other things, the hide of an albino elephant once ridden by Hannibal, teeth from a seven foot tall Siberian shaman, a sword used by Saint George to slay a dragon, a strangely woven carpet firmly tethered to the earth now but once piloted by Aladdin, the eye of a Gypsy Queen, forever staring into space through blue tinged formaldehyde, a bloody dagger that had been thrust into the back of a Renaissance painter’s rival, a broken arrow from the quiver of Robin Hood, the bones of an asp once cradled tightly to Cleopatra’s breast, a mummified finger from The Blind Beggar of Amit-Pur, who, sightless since birth, astonishingly created beautiful and elaborate silverpoint drawings, the charred femur of a woman burned at the stake for her heretical visions, and Hitler’s mustache comb. He possesses a sharply honed eye and has an uncanny gift for being at the right place at the right time in order to discover and obtain these strange items, although there are rumors that more than one of his acquisitions involved the use of force.
In unguarded moments, sitting by a warm fire after a heavy meal and one too many brandies, he sometimes lets slip the logic behind his unique assemblage. He will look over the top of his round, tortoise shell glasses, and whisper how the items he is amassing are like pieces of an omni dimensional puzzle that one day will allow him to “traverse the layered stream of time’s multiverse at will and uncover the secret of immortality.”
I had come to know Mr Dankquart when I walked out of my door one morning and found him waiting on the front steps. It was a bright, warm, summer day, with the humidity reaching tropical levels. Dankquart was unseasonably dressed in a very formal looking chocolate brown suit with widely spaced, cream colored pinstripes. His black hair was neatly combed but haphazardly uneven in back and he had what appeared to be a very recently received cut on his chin. He told me he had been a dear friend of my deceased father, that they new each other “from the old days”. I thought it funny that my father never mentioned him if in fact they had been so close. When I told him of my father’s recent passing he expressed surprise at the news, and yet, there was a disingenuous edge to his reaction. We had a short but pleasant chat, said goodbye, and I thought that would be the end of it. But since that day he contacted me numerous times and we’ve become, well, not friends exactly, I don’t know that he has any friends, but regular acquaintances. I have to admit, he has a kind of hypnotic charm, and I find myself intrigued by his slightly out of date demeanor. When we are together for any length of time the conversation invariably returns to questions of photos of cave paintings that my father may have taken while on vacation when I was a child. I am not aware of any, but given the stacks and stacks of old photos that I’ve never even begun to search through, it’s possible they do exist.
About a year ago, I received a letter in the mail from Mr Dankquart, (he loathes email), informing me that his latest find may also be his most important. While directing an archaeological dig, whose location is a closely held secret, he has apparently made a very remarkable discovery. He claims to have unearthed the remains of a long vanished civilization, a race so advanced that in ways their knowledge of the practical world may exceed that of current understanding. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of artifacts in and around the site, he says, and he will soon be sending them to me for safekeeping. More than this he refuses to divulge, but even The Blind Beggar of Amit-Pur could sense the excitement in his writing. I noticed the letter had been posted in England and the stamp looked ancient.
Soon thereafter a package arrived. It was a nondescript cardboard box but it smelled vaguely of peat and molasses and brandy. Inside, carefully wrapped in brown paper and tan gauze, were the pieces below, a short note, and a page torn from the Dr’s notebook, which I framed. The note simply read,”Fragments from an (the next word had been scribbled over and was now illegible) temple mural. Glory is within reach! Many more like this scattered around the site. Ha-ha! Bigger things to come. Cheers!”
Since then than packages have been arriving at an unscheduled but steady pace. For the most part the boxes are nondescript brown cardboard with few markings. They arrive after dark and I have never run into the delivery person.
Last week at dusk there was a heavy pounding at my front door followed by the screech of car tires down the road. I opened the door and found a note stuffed in my mailbox. Its envelope was dirty and torn on one corner. The cream colored paper inside was heavy, with coarse fibers running through it, and dark blue smears on the bottom.
“I hope this letter finds you well. Afraid that my situation is not as positive as I had hoped it might be by now. But I am close, so close to my goal. All the omens point to success! But food and water are dear and the weather has been less than co-operative. Funds to continue my work have been lost in transit, so I have made the decision to ask you, as my dearest and closet friend and ally, to sell the pieces I have placed in your care so that I may continue my work. Forever in your debt, Victor.”
The message was scrawled in blue ink using a leaky fountain pen.
And so, at his directive, I will offer pieces from what I’m calling, “The Dankquart Collection.”
The first two are reported to be fragments of a temple mural, although their exact origin has not yet been revealed. They appear as frescoed plaster on stone and measure approximately 5.5x3.5” and are roughly 7/8” in depth. They are both mounted in 8x6x2.5”black boxes with glass fronts. The rose and skull fragment appears to have a background of gold leaf. These display cases can sit on a table or desk or hang on a wall.
Both of these pieces are sold. Please see the Dankquart Collection page for available artwork.