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Biographical Sketch of an Unknown Surrealist

Son of a disgraced Russian nobleman and an industrious baker, Jax was born in Philadelphia, PA, on the fin de siecle, with a full set of false teeth. His peripatetic father kept the teeth for years until they were lost in a typhoon off the coast of Singapore during one of his less successful escapades. Jax's father had the head of a lion and the carnivorous stare of an eagle. He deserted his family whenever he felt like it.
Jax spent much of his time growing up watching his mother build furniture--armoires, credenzas, roll-top desks--and bake loaves of bread that she sold from a small cart on the street. He often sat for hours on end contemplating the intricate geometric expansions and contractions in the freshly baked loaves fresh from the hearth. Though he seldom ate them. They tasted dry and gummy and stuck to the liberal spaces between his young incisors.
Jax believed in absolutely nothing at the time, and when he wasn't watching bread his days were a melee of existential angst as he threaded his way through a veritable sea of armoires, credenzas, and roll-top desks that flooded their once spacious domicile.
His formal education was spare and scanty, except for what he read, but he read anything he could get his hands on. Mustard jars, wine bottles, the warnings on mattresses and pillows. street signs. When he was ten he got a library card. All at once there was no stopping this wild-eyed ingenue who usually needed a haircut.
Due to a vastly creative curriculum vitae, later acclaimed as his first surreal work, he was accepted to teach at a university of sorts. It was in a dirty steel town but it was an accredited university nonetheless. It didn't take much to get accredited in those days.
After nearly strangling a student in his second year at the institution, he decided his true calling was art. After two years of near starvation, lean as a rake yet not nearly as clever, Jax left for Paris.
From 1925 to 1938 his hands were often sticky. Due to an art dealer he had met in a hashish haze in a coffeehouse bordello in Amsterdam, his witty and whimsical pornographic collages wormed their way into exhibitions in Paris, Nice, and Berlin. Stealing from newspapers, photographs, musical scores, and olive labels, Jax fashioned a mad graffiti of image upon image devouring image in a cannibalistic bacchanalian orgy. It was all a bit vertiginous, and several spectators were said to have fainted halfway through his first exhibit.
Jax was briefly a name to be reckoned with in the fickle world of avant-garde art. Black and white photos of his work were soon published in wild and self-righteous manifestos issued in numbers so small that even their scattered pages are considered collectible. Although they are not worth much.
Despite such acclaim, the surreal gurus of the day were not impressed. Paul Eluard dismissed Jax's work as vaguely piquant with the aftertaste of burnt toast. Andre Breton nodded sadly as he caressed the snowy thighs of his latest paramour.
By 1939 Jax could see the writing on the wall, most likely the wall of a public bathroom where he spent an inordinate amount of time lost in transcendental masturbation. This new message, interspersed with the perennial invitations that had so often led him astray, proclaimed that war was on the way.
He fled back to America, penniless and useful as a doorstop. Fortunately, Jax found work as a polisher in a furniture store: armoires, credenzas, roll-top desks. The years began to drift by in an hallucinogenic haze induced by his constant inhalation of hydrocarbon fumes from the polish. In 1948 he was summarily dismissed from his position for repeatedly trying to polish a customer.
Driven by necessity, Jax penned his last great surrealist work, a curriculum vitae so outstandingly preposterous and exaggerated that he was hired to teach creative writing at a university of sorts. It was in a dirty mill town, but it was an accredited university nonetheless. It didn't take much to get accredited in those days.
Jax's life may not have been a work of art, but it could not be denied that it exhibited a certain startling symmetry.
Jax moved from one teaching position to another with great alacrity, little precision, and less fortune. He spent his declining years at a small unaccredited community college in the Ozarks. By this time he was never quite sure what he was teaching, and neither were his students, but he taught it anyway. His lectures were known for a soporific excellence peppered with flashes of insight into the highs and lows of hydrocarbon poisoning.
"You know, man, it was like surreal!" said exterminator and former student Stu Pooley. What more could Jax have asked for?
Jax was buried in a grave high in the Ozarks, where wildflowers bloom and eagles eviscerate their prey. He was buried with a full set of teeth, pearly white and evenly spaced.
"Jax Who?" The Journal of Incomprehensible Art, Volume 27, Issue Ten, 1946, pps. 17-24.
Surrealists Worth Skipping, Farrar, Straus, and Heidegger, 1973.
"Why Are People Fainting at Art Exhibits?" Paris Metro, June 7, 1929.
"Artists Who May Never Have Existed," Chapter Three in Frauds, Fakes, and Phonies of the Art World, Schwarzenegger International, 1979.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
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