The Palimpsest of J. V. Leiberhofft
By Jeff Baker
Ian stopped dead and stared at the wall. His jaw dropped.
“Oh…my…God…” he managed to say. “Is that what I think it is?”
Corey nodded and grinned, letting Ian take it all in.
The room was not that big and bare. Black vinyl floors, white walls, white lights on the ceiling, just the right brightness. The figure on the wall dominated everything. A young man, clad only in black shorts, his wrists bound in front of him with matching black leather bindings, head bowed, muscular arms, legs, abs, chest, the whole package. He was either backed up to or growing out of his back behind him two spreading bare branches from a small tree, giving the look of wings stripped of their plumage. The whole thing gave an impression of restrained motion and grace. Tension beneath a surface. Freedom cut short. It was only when Ian looked closer that he noticed the slight pinkish tinge on the pale flesh, the slight yellowish in the blonde hair.
“I thought, well at first, you had a model posed up against the wall,” Ian said, “but this is fantastic!”
“Look a little closer,” Corey said. Ian nodded, still in a daze. He stared at the edges of the canvas that covered nearly the entire wall, held at the corners by white thumbtacks. In one corner was a small white card, tacked to the wall.
“Hey, somebody tacked this card right on the canvas!” Ian said.
Corey was pouring two glasses from a bottle on a table in the far corner of the room.
“Take a good look,” he said. “I’ll have this ready when you do.”
Ian bent down and read the card aloud. :”Flight. J. V. Leiberhofft (2107) Oil and Pastel on Canvas.” He looked up. “Yeah, Leiberhofft. I saw an exhibit of his paintings in New York a couple of years ago, but I didn’t…” He had reached out to touch the card. It felt flat and firm. So did the thumbtack. He cautiously ran a finger along the edge of the canvas. He looked up again.
“This is all a painting…” he breathed. “All painted on the wall…even the thumbtacks are a painting…My God! This is the original!”
Corey handed Ian the champagne. “Thought you’d want this.”
“Yeah…” Ian said, sipping the champagne, “Thanks.”
“And it’s not the original,” Corey said. “It’s a copy he did later after he sold the original.”
“The New York exhibit called their copy ‘the single most erotic artwork that entered into mainstream America in the first part of the century.’” Ian said, staring at the painting.
“And that’s James-Steven Coe, he was Leiberhofft’s usual model,” Ian said.
“I know,” Corey said. “I’ve spent my share of time admiring James-Steven since I got this.”
“Where did you find this anyway?” Ian asked.
“When I bought the house there was a mural on this wall,” Corey said pouring himself another glass. “One of those awful retro-abstract things. I wanted to have it painted over but luckily the painter scanned it before he started painting and told me there was something else underneath. Cost me about $100 to have the abstract thingie dissolved, but this was what was underneath. A genuine Leiberhofft.” Cory finished his glass. “And I checked at the Records Hall and then did a little research and found that the guy who owned this house twenty-five years ago had been a friend of Leiberhofft. So, he definitely stayed here.”
“And he painted this right here,” Ian said, sipping his champagne.
“He and James-Steven were here,” Cory said.
Ian stared at Cory and broke out into a smile. “Did you buy the house and the painting just to get romantic with me?”
“No,” Cory said, putting down the glass and kissing Ian. “But it’s a nice idea!”