Dedicated to the young women who have gone through this – both those who survived and those who didn’t

Tom’s work was always considered rather extreme but this broke all records. The canvas, 120 centimetres by 100 and set in a repro baroque frame, portrayed in grim realist detail a young woman, in her teens maybe, hung from a rope round her neck against a brutal abstract backdrop in red and black. She was dressed in only a sky-blue slip and was obviously very pregnant. In the top right-hand corner of the hellish sky was a white shape like a bird flying away. In the opposite lower corner a figure could be discerned in the chaos of the background that might be a man. His face, if that’s what it was, expressed either rage or grief. The title was ‘The Annunciation’.

The gallery, that had finally agreed to show it, was soon besieged by outraged Christians of various denominations. Despite a statement of support by the local Anglican bishop, the gallery withdrew it after a week. They cited the cost of hiring security to prevent attacks on the piece as their reason for doing so.

There was little Tom could do about it. As a self-confessed lost soul on the artistic spectrum, he was only doing his job – recording the reality perceived by his quite ordinary, damaged human brain. Damaged, that is, by growing up and living with all the billions of other damaged brains on this planet. Nothing special, apart from the incessant itch to represent those impressions visually, one way or another.

“Why do you need to show it to anyone?” asked his brother.

His standard reply was, “What’s the point of talking to yourself?” In fact he saw art as conversation by other means. Why did people talk to each other at all if it wasn’t to agree on reality in order to achieve something – if only to pass the time? But that didn’t completely explain his work, let alone this painting.

Its critics saw it as scandalous, obscene and provocative. The latter was proved by the number of people who wanted to deface or destroy it. Its obscenity was demonstrated in the belly of the hanging girl, her breasts, barely covered by her underdress, and her twisted mouth, protruding tongue, bulging eyes. Rumours spread that it was painted from life .. or rather death. The scandal was that it had been.

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