It was utterly breathtaking—amazing I would say but the word does the piece no justice. Somehow, Michael Spectra had managed to create four masterpieces in one. I was beginning to think that he might be the best after all.
The holomorph was entitled “The Four Corners of the World.” The landscapes alone would have generated critical acclaim. But the women raised the piece from contemporary statement to eternal treasure.
There was no question about it. Spectra liked to do women.
Conceptually the morph is absurdly simplistic. At the top of the world, which is seen by rotating the body skyward in the VR harness, fantastic snow-covered peaks reach towards the steel-blue heavens. Beasts of prehistoric times own the slopes, thunderous wooly mammoths and silent saber tooth hunters. The nerve manipulators prickle the senses with icy flashes, and the cyclic moan of the wind through the high mountain passes floods the auditory senses.
Spinning the body towards the ground so that one hangs suspended upside down reveals the equatorial zone—lush and green and venomous plants climbing over Mayan ruins. The sun dominates the red sky overhead, and the nerve manipulators raise the body temperature until you are covered in beads of sweat. Large reptiles with emerald eyes slither in and out of the shadowy jungles.
Leveling out and spinning the body to the right one sees Spectra’s interpretation of the Far East. Prayer bells and incense fill the senses, and throngs of bicyclists stream around you on the claustrophobic New Tokyo streets in an avalanche of squeaky wheels and color. Hindu
temples ring the distant hills, towering portraits of the strange and mysterious pantheon of the Upanishads.
Spinning the body to the left one is greeted by the majestic American West. Insects glide and buzz around the viewer in minute choreography as eagles wheel and cry above the swaying fields. The seemingly impregnable peaks of the Rockies beckon in the scented summer breeze.
But greater than these things, and always the central element in each of the visual novellas, is the woman. Under certain conditions of light her skin appears cream-colored. In other times her skin is dark olive like virgin dirt. One would be tempted to say that her sparkling eyes are amber, but they unmistakably throw off glints of blue in direct sunlight. Her breasts are full and voluptuous, and her torso and legs slim and contoured. Sometimes she seems innocent and sincere, perhaps no more than eighteen or nineteen years of age. In other poses her predatory smile portrays a much older spirit.
On the northern slopes she rests seductively on a ledge, covered only by a string of sapphires across her lower torso. A single saber tooth hangs suspended from a black cord around her neck. This was the woman as concubine.
In the lush tropics she is a plaintive innocent, laid out on a stone dais for sacrifice atop a Mayan temple. This was the woman as a virgin.
In the East she is a ferocious Kali, her breasts and torso wildly painted and knives in each of her eight arms. Thousands bow to her in worship in the cities and along the hills. This was the woman as death.
In the American West she sits on a checkered blanket in the fields, her hair streaked with blond highlights. She wears a white blouse knotted above her belly button and what the early Americans called “jeans.” Her smile is welcoming, and a large picnic basket at her side reveals bread and meats. This was the woman as fertility.
Undoubtedly, she was all women.
And undoubtedly Michael Spectra was the strangest of men. As the curator of the first museum dedicated solely to Virtual Art I’ve met all kinds of electronic artists. They range from the vicious and inhuman to the simply drug-induced and morose. The one common thread between them is that they all have amazing egos when it comes to their work and cyberart in general. All of them come from one school of thought or another and “run” with artists of similar thought.
Not Spectra. He had no family or personal contacts whatsoever, and rarely attended even his own gallery openings. He was a recluse in the truest sense of the word. And to say that he was disinterested with the rest of the art world would be an understatement.
I was then astonished to discover him in the museum near closing time quietly pondering “The Four Corners of the World.”
I tactfully waited until he exited the VR chamber.
“Excellent piece, isn’t it?” I asked coyly, as if he were a stranger to me.
“Better than reality,” he replied.