In the Flesh

July 12, 2009 § 1 Comment


I went to my friend Camilla’s Open Studio this Friday. Her new work is mostly large paintings, nude self-portraits in which the figure is usually reclining and seen from the rear. They’re languorous and intentionally evocative of all the great nudes of art history; for some reason having to do with the bizarre state of the art world, Camilla feels there’s something narcissistic about painting the female nude. OK, she’s female. And it’s her, not a model. But although it’s entirely possible I’ve been conditioned by 10,000 years of art history, it seems to me that the female body is eminently more paintable than the male. And I understand her choice to not use a model because who wants another person around when you’re working?

In any case, her work was quite beautiful, sensuous and bold. Pink flesh tones, warm grays and browns. I’m glad that figurative painting is coming back. Check out her website—and for more beautiful nudes (and landscapes, dolls, and portraits, all selcouth and geason) my brother’s website.

Looking at Camilla’s paintings did what most good art does—it made me want to paint, which I loved doing as a child, but gave up, as a teenager, in favor of writing. I used to be a big believer in specialization. By the time I was out of college, even the idea of writing both poetry and prose seemed greedy.

Now I wish I’d spent a few years learning the craft. I know it’s not too late (well, maybe it is), but I also know that I’m not going to take the time right now to acquire a new skill, though brushing up on an old one would be a pleasure.

But maybe not. Maybe if I could sort of paint—better than I can do now, much worse than Camilla—I’d just be unhappy with the results. One reason I chose writing was that it was harder for me to see the flaws in my work. By the time I knew enough to get seriously discouraged, I was skilled enough not to be completely discouraged. It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if that means I would have progressed faster as a painter? This assumes, of course, that I could ever have used that critical eye rather than running from it in terror.

What would I paint? Faces. Devils. Animals. Storms. A cow thrown up into the air by a tornado while a woman copulates with the devil in a ditch. Just for instance. Or a mother forcing gray cocoa down her angry child’s throat while the devil is outside, in the upper left corner, eating the universe as a pair of Dobermans watch. Needless to say (is it?) actually painting these scenes would not hold my interest. Really, I have no idea.

Another Saturday night. I was hideously depressed until about four o’clock, full of self-castigation about how much I let slip while I mooned over my unreliable lover, but now feeling ok. I upped my meds. Talked to Charles.  Posed Mouchette with Gloria Vanderbilt’s new erotic novel, Obsession, which Lisa for some reason thought was just the gift for me, and took photos. It’s the little things in life.

And now it’s Sunday night. Just like that.


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