Eyes like Ripening Fruit

September 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

We went to the Met today, early enough that the lines weren’t long, and wandered through Chinese decorative arts, American landscape painting, the Greek and Roman rooms, and the African rooms. I told Charles about Delilah’s friend Zach Hyman who’s been shooting nude women in various places in the city. He was doing it at the Met a week and a half ago, and the model, K.C. Neill, got arrested for public lewdness. That’s a little better than arresting a painting for lewdness, but not much.

It reminded me of the time Charles got busted by a Met guard for sketching. He wasn’t sketching, merely taking notes, and argued this, which the guard disputed, and when the guard grabbed him to take to the interrogation chambers, Charles resisted and ended up falling down the long staircase. They let him go after questioning, mostly because he showed them his MoMa ID, but I had to wait around, wondering if I’d need bail money. “We should have sued,” I said today. That’s a wicked staircase.

But it’s hard to stay mad at the Met. There’s so much beauty and it makes me happy. I like going on impulse, when there’s nothing I’m dying to see. I notice the building more. I’m aware of it as a palace I’m privileged to enter rather than as an endless, feet-punishing maze. Like everybody, I want to live in it.

Today, although I started out most interested in the cinnabar plates and boxes in the Chinese Decorative Arts exhibit—because I have cinnabar beads I use in jewelry-making*—it was John Coplans’ nude photographs of himself that I most loved. No beautiful young woman has anything on him  as a model. His creased, aging belly with its scattering of hair looked like a Japanese watercolor, a winter landscape with thin, bare-branched trees.

It made me think of my painter friend Camilla and her anxieties about nude self portraits and my own nude self portraits (photographs) from several years ago, which I felt joyful and excited about—my first foray into visual art in decades—until my friends reacted with everything but the idea that these might be, however imperfect, works of art. But I suppose I agree with them, in part, because I didn’t choose a torso shot for this post. Even considering it made me remember what porno movie theaters used to be like in the 1970’s. The huddled masses…the sticky floors.

After the museum we went for tea and pastries at Sant Ambroeus, on Madison Avenue and 78th. It was a perfect day, just slightly cool, the weather New York was made for, and I was having sweet and melancholy memories of the neighborhood. This was my first home in New York, when I was eleven, and my part-time home  for a couple of years before Philip moved back to Brooklyn. Today all the usual reasons for disliking the Upper East Side dropped away and I was intoxicated by art, cake, brownstones and Central Park. Of course, most of the residents were away for the long weekend. That provided exquisite psychic ventilation. The skins of the buildings were shimmering with relief.

* Take a look at my jewelry

Archaic Torso of Apollo
By Rainier Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

In the Flesh

July 12, 2009 § 1 Comment

camilla.homage

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.

Making Jewelry

December 5, 2008 § Leave a comment

Detail

Detail

I’ve been working madly on making jewelry all day, trying to get it on my ebay site in time to send out a newsletter and perhaps make enough money to pay the fees for my ebay site. Making the jewelry is deeply satisfying, scanning it and photoshopping it is fun; looking it on ebay and seeing what they do to my photos is not fun. I have to work on ways to make the best use of their pitiful platform, being too overwhelmed to attempt my own. I should also put everything on sale, slash prices, 50% off, but how can I do that when I hardly charge more than the cost of making the stuff? I am a bad businesswoman. I love my materials. I take my time. My image of myself is always as a eccentric-gypsy-crazy witch woman in a cave or hut, making art or medicines or magic without heed for the world until the world comes to me and then, since nothing cost anything to begin with, I can sell it for whatever I want. I blame the stories I read as a child. I remember takes of labor–the wheat from the chaff, etc, all those tasks that involved the kindness of elves—the cold miserable years of Psyche’s quest to find Eros after she spilled candle wax on his delicious nakedness because doing it in the dark wasn’t fun and her sisters said he was a monster: fairytales and legends are full of travail. But living in the woods, or an island, or in a cave upon, basically, nothing, what the earth would give freely, was what resonated with me. One might say this was because this was how I already lived, in a house. I was just adding some solitude, injecting autonomy into the easeful days of childhood. But I think artists do live like this, even if only for a few hours at a time.

I am purely happy when I make things, and then the social whirl is is too carnal, like a rib roast of beef salivating on its china platter when you only want a few autumn vegetables with a sprinkling of fresh thyme and a piece of whole wheat bread. If I had no engagements for the next two weeks, I would be disconsolate; having them, I feel pressured. They are stealing me from my leopardskin jasper, my venetian glass, the fantasy novel that will make me solvent.

I went to a party at St. John the Divine last night; the reopening. It was quite beautiful—the huge vaulted space, the tapestries, the crowds—and I saw a few friends, met Jonathan whom Philip has often spoken of. Saw my brilliantly talented painter friend Camilla. Then went home with Philip and he heated me up some frozen tamales from Trader Joe’s and we made love until we got too tired. That middle aged thing—the fucking is nice, but we can finish it tomorrow, right? It was nice to feel excited, your body against mine, tenderness; orgasm is no longer required. Not that it ever was for me, but I’m used to male lust. To feel it changing int osomething–dare I say–softer, is disconcerting but rather pleasant. As long as it’s not because I’m not losing my charm, which of course I must be, but perhaps very slowly

15 years ago I stopped having sex with Charles because, a) it had been deteriorating for a long time, and b) he told me I was too fat; I looked like a ‘giant green hamburger.’ (The green was the tee shirt.) That led to many years of misery culminating in Internet wanderings and Philip: the erotic frenzy of the turn of the century. Now Charles is visiting his old flame–the first time he’s seeing her that I know about ahead of time, and it makes me feel so amazingly calm. Happy for him of course, relieved of my own guilt, but also just calm as if the world is back in order. I don’t know quite how to explain it. I don’t want to think about what they’re doing, feel none of the prurient, anguished left-outness I still often feel vis-a-vis Philip and Christine, but am still glad that there is a story there, real emotion and event happening—just nothing that’s my business

Meanwhile my sister’s boss dropped dead of a heart atttack while running on a treadmill. I’ve always thought they were dangerous. I used to hope GWB would drop dead on one. This man, my sister’s boss, never sounded very nice, and I never met him to care one way or another, but still it is unnerving how death just snatches us. I would like to write more about the underworld before I die and am disappointed to not find one.jasper-pendant

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