When Zev Bauhaus painted, he lost control. Everything became disorganized and a mess. Paint got thrown around. Paint tubes splattered all over the place. Dirty brushes on the floor. The paint brush water a grayish sludge. It was worse than the painting studio of Francis Bacon. All of Zev’s focus would go into his work and the correct placement of everything around him didn’t matter. He would play the music of Merzbow, Throbbing Gristle, Coil and Nurse With Wound (all artists that he admired for their unwillingness to sell out) as he lost himself in the movements of the paint. By the end of the painting session there would be as much paint on Zev as there was on the canvas. Fortunately, Zev had two assistants who had the lamentable job of cleaning up after him.
It was odd that Zev was able to be such a disorganized mess while painting but in the rest of his life he was impeccably organized. Everything was in its right place. Every angle that he saw out of balance he would straighten. Books stacked per size. Nice pens lines up in exact configuration beside one another. Shoes kept in their correct alignment. Nothing was a mess in Zev Bauhaus’s material life. Except Amy. Amy struggled to keep everything clean. The clothes in her closet threatened to push over the closet door. She left dirty clothes everywhere. Everything she touched became out of place and this always pissed Zev off. But Zev felt like a hypocrite since he always made a terrible mess when he would paint and he refused to clean up after himself.
Zev was working on a large abstract painting that was commissioned by The Hoffman Gallery in New York. The painting was thirty feet by fifteen feet and was covered in paint. Zev used a ladder on rollers to paint the large amoeba like shapes that floated in a void of blue paint. He preferred using acrylic paint because he liked the texture more than oils and acrylic paint dried quicker. Zev would work frantically on the painting for a brief duration of time and then he would come down from the ladder, sit in a fold out chair and smoke a cigarette. He would check his phone and return text messages and he would stare at his painting as he smoked. It was good that Zev didn’t paint at home anymore since when at home he would always think about things that needed to be cleaned or rearranged. He would paint for a little and then clean his house or move furniture around. He was never able to remain focused on the task at hand and now that he had his own large studio space away from his house he still struggled to stay focused on the task at hand for any long duration of time.
Becoming a famous contemporary painter was something that seemed to just happen to Zev. He would paint and show his work and gradually he started getting more and more offers for sales, commissions and gallery shows. He didn’t think much about the direction he was going in but knew that he was tired waiting tables and he wanted to have a more established career. He took the opportunities that were being offered to him since he was nearing 40 and felt like everyone in his life judged him for not having a real job. Gradually Zev started making more and more money from his paintings and he could quite his restaurant job, get a large studio in Westwood and start painting full-time. For the first year or so it was great but the more successful he became the more he had to conform to a certain taste that the market desired. He couldn’t veer off into different artistic directions because his unique abstract style was what was in high demand. He was no so sick of doing his paintings that just getting through the day felt like it drained his soul of all the life contained within it. But a man must earn a living and no matter how much Zev wanted to quit he stuck with it because the sense of responsibility kept him locked in.
One of Zev’s studio assistants was a younger woman by the name of Marissa. She had long flowing blonde hair and large breasts. Her body was slim and well proportioned. She wore converse and jeans with holes in them. Zev thought she looked like a younger Kim Gordon. She was fresh out of art school and wanted to be a famous contemporary painter herself. She worked diligently for Zev and was committed to using him to get ahead in her own career. She would often flirt with Zev and Zev considered having sex with her but he couldn’t bring himself to cheat on Amy. For the first time in his life he was very much in love with a woman and had no interest in doing anything that he felt would hurt her. He didn’t think of the occasional whores he had sex with as being cheating since there was no feelings involved. It was just a kind of self maintence that he needed to tend to every now and then. Having an affair with Marissa or any woman was out of the question. He was loyal to Amy.
Zev and Marissa went out to lunch at a small café not far from the UCLA campus. It was obvious that they were both painters since they were only people covered in paint in the restaurant. Marissa told Zev that he had paint in his hair but he didn’t care. They ate sandwiches and talked about upcoming shows and commissions. Marissa told Zev about an upcoming show she had and he told her that this job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Marissa was surprised since she always thought that getting paid a lot of money to make paintings was the dream. Zev told her that for him it had become a nightmare.
Marissa and Zev walked back to the studio smoking cigarettes. Zev was talking about how Marissa better be careful about what she is good at because people will be willing to pay her to do it and she will then be stuck doing it. Marissa asked Zev what he wanted to do with his life if he didn’t like what he was doing. Zev told Marissa that he would like to make more subversive art, cartoons mixed with writing. A kind of autobiographical graphic novel. Marissa asked him if he wanted to be a cartoonist and he told her that he was a cartoonist deep at heart. That he preferred drawing to painting but that he could never get paid to do the kind of work he liked to do.
Zev took a piss in the toilet. He liked the bathroom in his studio. He took the inspiration from Henry Miller’s bathroom and covered the walls with pictures of artists, naked women and art that he liked. There were also cut out articles about him on the wall. There was an article called “Who Is Zev Bauhaus?” which appeared in the magazine Art In America and was about how many people believed that Bauhaus was not Zev’s real last name. The author went on an investigative quest to prove or disprove that Bauhaus was indeed Zev’s legitimate last name. What he found was that Zev was born in Germany and raised in Philadelphia. His father who was a successful doctor and his last name Bauhaus came from German settlers going as far back as medieval times. The author found that the school of design which made the name famous and synonymous with an art movement had actually taken the last name from one of its initial founders. Turned out that Zev Bauhaus was uniquely related to the Bauhaus movement. It made perfect sense that he would become a famous painter, was the articles conclusion.
As Zev pissed he noticed that his urine was yellow and reminded himself that he needed to drink more water. He looked at his dick which was limp and had some sort of brown mole growing on it. He shook his dick to get any excess urine out and off of it and then he zipped up his pants. While washing his hands, he looked at himself in the mirror. He liked his long brown hair but noticed his facial stubble was all gray. His eyes looked defeated. He thought about what he would eat for dinner. He thought about drinking wine. He thought about having sex with Marissa. He was thinking about anything that would take his mind off of the fact that the next five or six hours needed to be spent working on some painting he was tired of working on. He longed for a different kind of life.
That evening Marissa went back to her studio apartment in downtown Los Angeles. Her parents had enough money to help her live with some degree of independent dignity. She was 26 and not yet able to fully support herself from her art so her father, who was a lawyer, helped to support his baby girl. Her apartment was decorated in a kind of indie style. Her manga influenced paintings hung on the wall. She had lots of plants and a window that looked out onto The Ace Hotel. When she came home she was happy to see her white cat. She threw her bag on the floor and fell onto the couch. She took off her pants and sat there in her thin black lace underwear. She put her hand over her vagina because it felt good. She was also thinking about Zev as she pet her cat. She was thinking about how hot he was but also such a miserable bastard.
Marissa got up and went and took a piss in the bathroom. Then she walked into her kitchen and looked in her cabinets to see what she could make for dinner. She decided on a green salad that came out of a plastic Trader Joes container. She also made brown rice with teriyaki sauce and black beans. She ate her dinner pantless while sitting on the couch, watching television and petting her cat. Zev was still on her mind. She found it weird that someone who had succeeded as a painter could be so miserable at it. He had gotten off track, she thought. Maybe when he married Amy he felt a pressure to succeed economically and so he went away from his vision for himself. He made compromises so that he could be seen as more of a responsible and successful man. He wanted Amy’s family to think of him as able to support their daughter. This is what often happens to men, Amy thought. And now he is miserable because of it. He feels like he sold out. There was a part of Marissa that really hoped she could help Zev get back on track. But she didn’t know how.
Zev was playing a Body/Head record as he and Amy ate dinner. She had made them a large salad, a large loaf of fresh bread with grass fed butter to rub all over it. Zev played the record because they each could not stand the sound of each other’s chewing. This is the point at which the relationship has turned bad, Zev would often think. If you can’t even stand the sound of your partner chewing that means that you are overfilled with resentment. Zev also played the music because he hoped he wouldn’t have to talk. They could just eat and listen to Body/Head. He didn’t want to have to hear about her day. Her meetings with writers and editors. Stories and literary essays she was editing. And then Amy told Zev that she was going away on a business trip and Zev stopped listening to the music.