Tag Archives: Angela Enos

“Posing for Tarkins” – Fiction by Joel Enos & Angela Enos

In Realms of Fancy - John William Godward, 1911
In Realms of Fancy – John William Godward, 1911

A naive young model gets caught in a reckless artist’s dangerous game in Joel Enos & Angela Enos‘ elegantly menacing story “Posing for Tarkins,” one of many flappy lits you can read in our Fall 2015 issue.

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THE LADY QUARANTAINE BLAMED HER MOOD’S SUDDEN SWING toward nostalgic melancholy on Stella. It was always Stella’s fault. It always had been.

“Scandalous!” Stella Potter laughed her horse’s neigh across the dinner table, prompting a look of shame from Philip, her long-suffering husband, and a chortle from another slightly intoxicated dinner guest, Carlotta Dunn.

“Who? Winifred Bunton?” This from Oscar Culmel, a dashing Spaniard and an artist in his own right, but only when his philandering allowed him time. “How do you mean?”

“No, no,” Ms. Potter took another large sip of wine. “Winifred is a class act. But that other artist back in the colony, the one who wanted to be Winifred but didn’t have half her talent…you know…Tarrrrrkinnnnnssss…” Another neigh. “Elaine, remember Tarkins? You knew him, didn’t you?”

The hostess of the evening, the Lady Elaine Quarantaine, smiled sadly at her unintentionally amusing friend. “Tarkins?” she said thoughtfully. “No, I don’t think I did know him.”

But in truth, Lady Quarantaine most definitely knew Tarkins. She had killed him.

Elaine was not yet the Lady Quarantaine back then. She didn’t even go by Elaine. Of all the guests at this dinner that she’d prepared to celebrate her husband’s most recent art acquisition, only Stella knew that for a brief year, back in that faraway colony so awfully many years ago, the Lady Elaine had been much better known as the highly sought-after artist’s model, Durissa.

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The young Elaine and her family were in the colony because her father, though not as fortunate in business as some, had been entrepreneurial enough to know that the small ports and towns on the far reaches of the Empire were full of potential. He had a young wife, two small children, and an older daughter from his first marriage to Elaine’s mother. It was Elaine who would rechristen herself as the more glamorous-sounding “Durissa” and launch herself among the artists and thinkers of the expatriate community, all seeking their fortune in a rough but seductive land.

Durissa was the name of a port Elaine had never been to, but had found on a map. It made her feel as though she belonged with the self-invented artists she was cautiously mingling with, far more so than plain old Elaine ever could. The assumed name also bore the advantage of preventing her father from learning what his dear eldest daughter was up to; modeling for artists was not something a woman of her station did without permanent social repercussions. Of course, it was actually quite demure compared to what the other girls were doing and not at all, as her friend Stella would hiss in mock shock, “Scandalous!”

Stella, being a few years older and having already discovered suitors, kept a small flat of her own under the pretense of taking respectable art classes, as well as dictation, near city hall. Durissa, under the guise of doing the same, was using Stella’s new living quarters as a home base for her “Scandalous!” new life.

One night at a private exhibit, Durissa was feeling quite lost in the shadow of Stella, who had, as usual, been very loud while wearing a daring new gown. Durissa arrived at Stella’s flat earlier that day in her third-best party dress, because her friend had assured her that while true bohemians should never be the best dressed at a party, they must always the most interestingly dressed. The second part of the maxim was fulfilled by a bright red shawl of Stella’s own that she wrapped around Durissa’s shoulders as she admonished her for her lack of creativity.

“It’ll cover how hopelessly bourgeois your dress is and create a sense of mystery,” Stella assured her. “If you want to be someone’s muse, you’ve got to look like you know things they don’t and then make them desperately want to find out. It’s easy, really.”

Durissa nodded, allowed herself to be anointed with Stella’s pungent perfume, and felt almost transformed.

The transformation lasted until an hour into the party, when Stella and her “Scandalous!” dress had disappeared onto the balcony with a stranger. Once alone, she felt more like Elaine than Durissa. She fumbled with the shawl, attempting to remove it.

“No, don’t move an inch! Stay perfectly still.” A sharp voice cut through the hum of conversation around her, startling Durissa into the desired stillness.

A man stepped out of the crowd of black tuxedoes and grabbed Durissa firmly by the chin, turning her face in profile. “There. I had to see it. I never trust a woman without a strong profile,” he said, releasing his grip on her face. She could see him now, a man of middling height and looks that would be unremarkable without a personality that obviously was not lacking in certain panache. The brocade waistcoat, the impractical rings, the precision of his hair’s unkemptness: This man was certainly a bohemian. Stella’s absurd red shawl had worked.

“Forgive me, I was so taken with your profile that I forgot my manners. I’m Tarkins, artist. And you have a magnificent profile. Just the sort I’ve been looking for.”

“My name is Durissa.”

It was the first time she’d said it aloud to a stranger. With the artist Tarkins as witness, it became true.

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“Both of Djuna” – Fiction by Joel Enos & Angela Enos

Seated female nude - Amedeo Modigliani, 1916
Seated female nude – Amedeo Modigliani, 1916

Art and artists are always making us look at models, but in “Both of Djuna,” from our Winter 2015 issueAngela Enos & Joel Enos make us look through the eyes of a model who’s looking at art, and artists, and how they look at models. And art. And also maybe themselves? There’s a lot of levels to navigate here.

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IT IS ALWAYS MORE INTERESTING TO BE A MODIGLIANI than a Sargent. The artist’s model thinks to herself as she sits, unclothed, on the wooden chair as their eyes all perceive and speculate and adapt her pieces and parts. It’s the interpretation itself. The act rather than the actual. Or is it actualization? Actualism?

Not for the first time she wonders if her inward view is more or less intense a gaze than that of those who view her from the outside. She’s sat for this particular group before. But today there are more of them than usual, new faces, new adaptors and interpreters. She rarely allows herself to ruminate, while sitting, on the many ways she will eventually see herself though someone else’s eyes. But with so many new eyes upon her this morning, she can’t help herself. I must distract myself from the distraction of anticipation.

So she looks back at them.

The young one with the wispy mustache that isn’t quite there won’t know any better than to be realistic. He’ll document every line and crease until he’s pushed me into a hard middle age. He hasn’t yet learned to take liberties with the canvas. The fear of being incorrect leads to harsh premonitions about my life.

The one that looks like a sea captain, with the cap on to shade his eyes, he’ll paint with period flair and later realize that he’s made me look like a snapshot of his mother from before he was born. I’ll like it, even though it won’t be me. 

The academic, the one with the accent– Belgian? Germanic? From parts uncharted of Meso-Britannia? She cannot imagine him existing outside of the geography of this studio. He’ll paint me truly and honestly, with the angle of my nose unflattering and the curve of my waist in precise brushstrokes. It will not be beautiful, but I will recognize myself in his work, even through his fingerprints in the oil. 

There is only one woman other than the model in the room. She sits away from the other artists, her easel not part of the half-moon cluster around the model’s stage. The model knows that this woman will work quietly on her own in a cloud of honeyed tea and turpentine in china cups. I will never see her work, but she will thank me at the end of the pose and disappear even faster than I do.

And perched on all of the easels, whether clustered or not, are her cousins. The two-dimensional women all share certain familial characteristics in the shape of their mouths, the protrusion of ears, but they are all distinct individuals. The model feels unsure whether any of her cousins are actually a representation of her self. But she knows the women on the easels are inarguably the girl on the stage. They are all Djuna in this moment, before signatures and initials have been scratched onto their surfaces and varnished into permanence. My part in this process is questionable. I am at best muse, but I might not be art myself.

Continue reading “Both of Djuna” – Fiction by Joel Enos & Angela Enos


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