The artistic director of the Joffery Ballet, Gerald Arpino, had three wigs: his work wig, which was a sober brown; his casual wig, an insouciant, blond number; and a sleek, jet-black toupee that was reserved for galas. Through rehearsals, meetings, and parties they sat on his head as a testament to the powers of the human imagination.
His black toupee was a flat, shoe-polish black. When he made an entrance into a glittering throng of well-dressed arts supporters every eye was immediately drawn to the negative space floating on his head. It produced a miraculous absence of light–a black hole which, despite themselves, people couldn’t stop looking at. In a room crowded with money and prestige, Arpino’s toupee was a dark ornament at the center of the universe.
Arpino was a wonderful, charming man who made it seem that anything was possible. His wigs were a statement:
“Life is full of difficult homely things. Here is one of them right on my head. As ugliness knows no boundaries so does beauty. I wear this wig as a symbol of our shared ability to transform what is awkward and painful into something that is full of light and hope.”
The wigs he so generously wore were a confirmation that life is what we make of it.
He was an artist of the highest order.