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The Naïve Painter 

A drawing by Lewis Gesner III and Lewis Gesner IV.


A boy was born to a simple woman out of wedlock. The father was an elderly fisherman. He divorced his wife and lived with the woman and their son in the work shed where he mended nets. There was a loft space with a triangular window where the child would sleep and look out at night over the harbor and boats of the simple port village where he had been born. As a toddler, he walked a dirt drive that ran along the shore and connected the fish shack to the road. One morning, an out-of-towner, a visiting summer folk happened by and stopped to talk to him. What was his name? Did he like boats? Did he live here? She was dressed in a long dress and wearing a shawl, perhaps she was going to a relative’s wedding, or visiting a local church. After a few moments, she stood up from her kneeling and continued on. The boy remembered her hair, it was golden, backlit by the sun. Her shawl billowed out in the breeze. He thought it was wings. She was an angel! When he went to bed that night, he saw her flying over the waters of the harbor and sprinkling it with magic sparkling lights. 

When his elderly father died, there was discussion of what should be done with the child, as his simple mother couldn’t really provide for him. Some family even kidnapped him in an attempt to pry him from his mother. In the end, a local philanthropist intervened, and he continued on with his natural mother. Through this, he heard the voice of his angel assuring him that everything would be okay. When his father died, he became attached to a pop singer he heard on the radio. He imagined they were lookalikes. When he became a painter of pictures, he painted himself as the pop singer, and his angel. He saw the angel’s face in women he met, so he was married, and divorced, three times. He began to drink heavily. Once, an ex-wife happened by and saw him laying drunk in his driveway. She pulled in and stood over him, scolding, and left. He shuddered at the vision. His angel had returned, and told him he should stop his drinking. Then, she floated into the air and disappeared. (his ex-wife had driven away)

He stopped his drinking completely, because the angel had told him to. His paintings of angels were becoming known, and the local newspapers told his story of the two angel visitations. To this, he added a story of a near death experience, when he had nearly drowned. He claimed he was drawn to a light, and his angel met him in heaven, but sent him back. 

Before long, people were making pilgrimages to his house to see his painting of an angel, and to ask for advice, which he said came from his angel. As there exist others who claim angel contact, he drew them too, and they soon founded a church of the angel in the town where he lived. The Baptist church lost most of its membership to it, and eventually was sold to a developer. It was at about this time that he received two communications from the past. His ex-wife called him, and told him she was glad he had stopped drinking, and recalled to him finding him drunk in his driveway. And, an elderly woman wrote to him, giving him her thanks for the flattery from “the child I happened upon on a road by the water,” as she recognized herself by his angel account that had been published. So he lost his faith.  In the Village of Angels, in a remote New England countryside, citizens celebrate their guardians and their belief in a magical life, while in his home, the painter has restless sleep, and agitated days, such is the silence of his angel.  



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