Gesso

Portland Art Museum 
#1
 These sort of things were hardly rare, but more often than not they were a duty and not a pleasure. Requiring a well worn and uncomfortable costume, the illusion of a level tempered and sociable sociable humanitarian - things expected of anyone in her line of work to some degree of another. Begrudgingly pulled from the back of her closet and tugged on for the sake of keeping a low yet reputable profile. Work gatherings, fundraisers, neighborhood parties that didn't center on barbecue or daytime pool gatherings - the things she couldn't really afford to avoid properly.

 Still, on the paint smear of a spectrum where enjoyment was concerned, this was a boon - an evening spent fundraising for mental health charities held near and dear to the practice. All of the money grabbing carefully balanced on the back of Expressionism, as good an excuse to dress up and throw around professional weight as any. As if it weren't to some extent or another self-fulfilling that they were there, like they all legitimately gave a single goddamn shit about Edvard Munch or his struggles in life.

 They'd rented out the usual spaces, signs signifying it was a private event on easels blocking off the hall of the museum dedicated to local artists. She'd came early, rubbed elbows and gave different variations of the same response to a few colleagues and associates. Good as any two-step, well versed and more muscle memory than any sort of mental gymnastics. She'd pardoned herself after the welcome toast, careful to make sure she hadn't drawn any attention when she dumped her champagne into the soil and moss of a potted palm of some sort or another.

 Finding a passing empty tray on the hand of a waiter, she didn't stop as she set the glass down on her way for the door. Slipping into the comparative quiet of the rest of the museum. Enjoying the echo of the granite under foot as she meandered, brushing herself off and stopping when she'd created enough distance that she found herself in a hall of ancient Egyptian works. Well lit and hung pieces of jewelry, artifacts from day to day life, a supernatural thrum. The last bit was enough to make her swivel, glancing over her shoulder and lifting her brows as she aimed for leisurely and aimless as she took the corner to peer into the next room in an attempt to pinpoint the hunch.
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#2
In his own way, Charlie cared about Edvard Munch’s life struggles and the indelible mark he had left on the word in his eight decades. Few people asked him for his opinions about art, music, or historical events, pigeonholing him as merely a math professor (and an often oddly-dressed one at that, conforming to stereotypes). What possible insight could he have when his priority this semester was balancing his Differential Geometry class with his freshman Calculus courses?

In fact, Charlie found great pleasure in art, had gone down a rabbit hole of associated classes during his undergraduate years born of deep connection rather than the more common desire to bed art history students under the misguided belief that they were easy. Paintings, more than sculptures, evoked the entire spectrum of human emotions. This was one reason that, when he found the time to dive headlong for hours into a museum’s collection, he did so during lulls, near closing when the other patrons had grown weary, and he might only share the halls with a particularly avid student sketching some work or another as a reference.

He was underdressed for the gala in the cordoned off wing, all the more reason that it best how he hadn’t been invited. A pair of black jeans hung off his frame, brown belt cinched as tight as it would go to keep them from falling down. His usual leather boots were out of season in these last few weeks of summer. His button-down shirt consisted of a plaid pattern, the three primary colors fading into one another – blue at the top, red in the middle, and then a pale yellow at the bottom and the hem, sleeved rolled up to allow his arms the soothing touch of the air conditioning.

At present, the young witch sat on a bench, staring intently at a Gaugin painting, Garden View, Rouen, as though he might be sucked into the landscape at any moment to sit beneath the branches of one of the blooming trees. So absorbed was he in this endeavor that he managed not to notice that he was no longer alone.
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#3
 Fish in a barrel, as one might say - once removed from the event and the stragglers that hung just outside the division of the velvet rope, signs of life were scarce. As if the museum itself went to sleep with sundown, sleepy and on its last leg for the day. To the point where there was really no questions about what, and who, she was sensing.

 She weaved her fingers, interlocked and kept in front of her as she gave the witch a wide birth. Taking in the works hanging on the opposite wall one after the other, mindful the whole while to not turn her back to him completely. He lacked the sort of aura of a murderous sort as far as she was concerned, yet still. Once she made her way back round in the direction she had come, circling a drain to the inevitable, she looked properly at the work that had seemingly caught his eye.

"An awful lot of brown." More a statement than a final answer on her opinion on the landscape in question.
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#4
One day, Charlie told himself, it wouldn’t be so easy to get the drop on him. One day, he would find a way to tap into his power without becoming so overwhelmed that he had to rely on distraction techniques, because if he was absorbed in a particular task, then it was a bit easier to rebuff the ambient emotions that swirled around him whenever a single other person occupied the same space as he did.

This was not that day.

Charlie startled somewhat by the sudden voice behind him, head spinning around in the direction of the sound. Broken from his contemplation, he was cast back into the present, in touch with his senses and his power, and the overwhelming…boredom he suddenly felt. That was a shame, nearly alone in a museum like this and…

Well, that wasn’t his business, was it?

The woman he faced now was short…not necessarily short for a woman but Charlie’s perspective was long-skewed by his own height, dividing the population into short, tall, and gargantuan relative to his stature rather than the bell curve. Her outfit looked expensive, far nicer than him on his best day…in fact, reminded him of one of his cousins back home who had developed a flair for the finer things.

Somewhere between that assessment and the present, the actual meaning of her words filtered through, rather than merely that she had spoken. A lot of brown – in the painting.

“I think it feels more real with that. The texture and the season come through more without too much bright color.”
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#5
 It struck her that the piece in question probably was composed on a chilly day where autumn stepped through the threshold into winter. And were that indeed the case, sure, she supposed it accounted for the prominence of the drab where the artist's palette was concerned. But that wasn't what held her attention then, snagged her focus like the fringe of a scarf stuck in the door - a hard stop.

 And no this wasn't work, and they weren't at her office, and it wasn't her place to breakdown his perspective - still. "And would you say that's what merits quality art for you, personally? Realism?" Working to keep her own opinion out of it as she took a couple leisurely strides closer to the wall and considered the frame chosen for the painting.
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#6
Charlie had the distinct impression that he was being studied like a horse in a paddock, measured only to come up wanting. Carefully he reviewed his last words, twenty-five syllables that he considered as innocuous as they were true. He’d spoken carefully in the language of opinion, prefacing with “I think” rather than a broader, bolder declaration that this was the only correct way to appreciate art and anyone who deviated was Wrong, a philistine with the comprehension skills of a potted plant and the emotional capacity of its accompanying watering can.

“…not for abstract art.” He knew enough about the medium not to expect a Pollock or Miro painting to convey realism, nor to judge them as though they should.

Charlie’s gaze drifted back to the painting, settling on the hut for several long seconds as he mentally composed what he should say. Then his attention snapped back to the woman’s face. He tried, and likely failed, to conjure his older brother’s confidence in speaking on a subject where his knowledge never surpassed that of a novice whose interest in art was purely personal.“I know Gauguin was a post-Impressionist, and the color makes it feel real.” He repeated the sentiment from a moment ago, because feeling – evoked emotions, imagined sensations – differed from strict realistic depiction and were his concerns here and now.

“I’ve never been to Rouen, but I know what it feels like to look out the window when the trees are losing their leaves and the first chill is in the air.”
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#7
 Politely civil, she didn't interrupt him or wander off, watched the stretched canvas and held her stance. His final explanation good enough it seemed, as if there was some sort of test to it that hadn't been revealed beforehand. "He set out to accomplish what he specifically aimed to do, fair enough." The idea of being raised somewhere that recognized seasons, not that unique that she felt the need to pursue it

 And while mixing personal affairs and business was to be frowned upon in even the best of circumstances, she still found herself leaning back the slightest bit to get a clear look down the exhibit halls and immediate conjoined rooms. Making certain no one lingered close or looked particularly interested in their soft spoken chitchat.

"Apologies if it comes off as uninhibited, but what is it that you can do?"
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#8
Charlie's curls bobbed up and down as he nodded in agreement. "Exactly." He'd conveyed what he had hoped to, and that was worthy of respect and appreciation, as far as the empath was concerned. Art served many purposes, and provocation wasn't in this painting's wheelhouse.

Charlie had only encountered Jaime recently, and his friendship with Emil had begun so long ago that they had shared a mutual coming out to reveal their witch status after dancing around it quite a bit beforehand. The euphemistic manner of addressing magic and abilities remained largely uncharted territory that might pass over his head unless he had reason to believe that he was in the presence of another witch. The telltale tingle along his spine and prickle across the surface of his skin was absent throughout the conversation, and when looking at Yana, he hadn’t seen a beast. The logical conclusion was that she was a mundane human, albeit a confident, sophisticated, and wealthy one. Their conversation thus far had focused on art, and he assumed this was to inquire into what experience, if any, he had with the medium, or perhaps why he was seated alone in the museum at this late hour with a shindig in the next wing to which he obviously hadn’t received an invitation.

“…math, mostly.” The fingers of his left hand lightly grazed the bracelet adorning his right wrist, brushing the hamsa in one of his more subtle self-soothing gestures. “I teach at the University up north.”

He managed a small smile, more self-deprecation than geniality, as he maintained eye contact.“I’m not much of an artist, but I like to look. Stereotypes, you know. What do you do?”
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#9
Math.

 Like a bramble under foot it spiked a fleeting jolt of a reaction - a sudden tinge of annoyance at what could easily come off as a play at ignorance. Her own smile was a practiced and empty one, close-mouthed and measured as she took a moment to stare. The volley back of the question was temporarily set aside on a high shelf as she instead decided to put a bit more force onto it. There was at least some slight chance that he wasn't dancing, but was rather fumbling - blissfully unaware as implication whizzed past overhead.

 "Admirable, for certain ..." Personally devoid of the sort of selflessness and patience required to teach anyone much of anything, particularly something as yes or no as mathematics. "But, no. I meant what is it that you can do, ability wise?" Unsure what the point of being glib was when he was about as palatable as the painting hung in front of them or the wall it was secured onto.
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#10
Before she offered the verbal correction, Charlie could feel the irritation that spiked from her and shot directly into his heart, setting uncomfortable prickles along his skin. Apparently he’d misinterpreted her question, which prompted several of his own. How would she know?

Granted, Charlie was prone to over-thinking situations such that his fight or flight reflex more closely resembled that of a wild rabbit than a middle-class human academic. Perhaps someone of a more balanced temperament or a brain better fortified against rutting wouldn’t dwell on this at all or wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t feel the pinpricks of concern creeping along the back of his neck.

Given the opportunity, he could expound on the beauty of mathematics and how most Americans were artificially rendered fearful at such a young age that they became convinced that they were too stupid to understand. He could discuss pay disparity and the way that education had been steadily defunded. He could – and would – discuss almost anything other than powers in this moment if provided a sliver of opportunity. But she shifted the subject so quickly, and he felt trapped. Charlie had never been the slick orator who could command a conversation or run roughshod over a firm presence or a singularly-focused mind.

His brown eyes darted around the gallery, two-thirds ensuring that there was nobody else within earshot and one-third reminding himself of the fire exits and plotting an escape route. Then his attention settled on her again. “Um. Empathy.” Short, sweet, and to the point. “And you?”
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