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Sunday, Feb 26, 2023

The Met moves pieces of their collection around semi-frequently, so it’s not uncommon to find a beloved painting moved to storage, or a different wing, or traded for another acquisition. The main room of the contemporary wing of the Met is huge and rectangular with vast ceilings and bright white walls. It leads to another room, which is squat, the walls a shade gray, the ceiling coming down almost on top of you. In the far back corner there used to be a wire sculpture hanging from the ceiling, the lighting so that the delicately woven pieces cast a identical copy at its feet. The wire hung in these sumptuous bulbous undulations, with                                                         
smaller woven pieces nesting inside, seemingly by magic. 

I sometimes feel a little paralyzed by art, struck dumb. Some undoing

inside my trunk, or throat, a painful vastness of feeling that is sorrow

and joy and ecstasy. I think some people still feel that way about Jesus.


 I’d read about Ruth Asawa’s wire sculptures for years, looking through

her tidy sketches of them, the lines like architectural blueprints to

some alien dwelling. When I first saw her sculpture, tucked away in

this cramped little room, I had the same feeling as the first time I’d

seen an Alice Neel, or a Nikki de Saint Phalle. It feels like it belongs to

me, or maybe, even better, I belong to it. The massive, towering,

mean-eyed Nanas at MoMaPS1, the sketchy, dwindly-limbed women in Neel’s abortion clinic, the cool, heavy-wired bodies of Ruth Asawa. I went back to see the sculpture recently, walking fast through the quiet halls to the contemporary wing. There was a new performance piece playing in the black-curtained theater, and the heavy voice of the artist, reciting a poem in Arabic, filtered through the gallery. There was a museum guard walking in circles around a small glass case, which houses a wax sculpture of a piece of Swiss cheese, the thick fleshy rind covered in a dark mist of leg hair. The Ruth Asawa sculpture was gone, the delicately woven wombs moved elsewhere; a dark corner of the Met’s storage, or maybe to another gallery—a solo show perhaps. I should ask the guard, I thought. But I just stood there, listening. The guard was singing, his ecstatic soprano mixing with the Arabic poem. A little piece from The Babysitter at Rest ran through my mind, Jen George's blissful prayer to women artists: “We love you Leonora Carrington. We love you Alice Neel. We love that you were a whore and a bad mother… Separation always occurs in the end, but in-between also.” 

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Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham source: Imogen Cunningham Trust

Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham source: Imogen Cunningham Trust

Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham source: Imogen Cunningham Trust








Sunday, Feb 19th, 2023

When I was in elementary school I hated Groundhog Day, dreaded it. I mourned the chubby, bucktoothed prophet's predictions for a longer winter, had anxiety about the rumblings of an early spring, afraid to get my hopes up. An early, faltering type of spring in NYC has begun. On my walks through the park I pause to inspect trees, running my fingers over the new velvet buds that are sprouting from the Kwanzan Cherry trees. The winter jasmine has come and gone several times, the bright yellow flowers dying in rounds. When I talk to friends they always ask "how are you liking the city?" I'll talk about how I saw the moon for the first time in months, on my way to a bitter-cold early morning run, or how I love the way people love their dogs here, bundling them in gorgeous parkas and sleek rain jackets. I saw a video posted by a friend of mine, driving through the New Mexican desert, a bright, obliterating red sunrise, first thing of 2023. I want a horizon, I keep telling B. Some stretchy golden mountains, black asphalt winding through it like an endless snake. I'd like some desolation. Some wet dense fields, with a few chunky cows, a hot blinding sun, new baby wildflowers everywhere. B got back from Devon a couple days ago. He sent me messages while he was gone. Images of thorny hedgerows, narrow country roads, medieval graveyards. It's so quiet I can hear my heart beating, he tells me. I fall asleep listening to the endless traffic: horns, drilling, the occasional revved engine, music from a speeding car pulsing the window panes. 

Six more weeks till re-birth, or so says the rodent.

Here are some lush-y, pastoral soaked items

for the winter-weary:































Friday Feb 17th, 2023

There’s this painting of David Hockney’s that I saw for the first time on Thanksgiving Day two years ago. My husband, who was then my boyfriend, brought over this big book with a thick blue fabric cover. It held a bunch of Hockney’s sketches and paintings. He drew a lot of pyramids and palm trees, and I remember wishing I had seen them when I was a kid, because I loved palm trees and was obsessed with Ancient Egypt, especially Nefertiti. The first time I saw a bust of her in a book I checked out from the library, I thought she had the most appealing face I had ever seen. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup but got a very real thrill out of copying the thick black eyeliner of Nefertiti around the eyes of my Barbie dolls with magic marker. The eyeliner I meted out always ended up smeared and dripped down their faces, which foreshadowed my own attempts at wearing makeup as an adult.

The piece I love the most from the Hockney book is one of two men standing facing each other. One has on a pair of bell bottoms with legs that are two different colors, and a hand extended out in front of him; the lines of his form are thin but strong, and you like him even though he’s a bit misshapen. The second figure has his back to the viewer, and he also has his hand extended, and you see they are in mid-reach to shake each other’s hand, but then again, maybe the figure on the right will unfold his left arm and they will embrace like dear friends sometimes do. The figure with his back to you doesn’t have on any clothes at all, and his butt is beautiful: full, pale, with deep suntan lines at the top of his thighs like maybe he has a pool and he wears very short swim trunks or maybe even a speedo when he swims laps. His back looks strong, and so do his legs, and his feet fade down to thin little points that disappear into the ground beneath him, so he really doesn’t have feet at all. 

Behind them, to your right is a big red house, though it seems very small because it is far away. The windows are my favorite part— some are small and white like Chiclets, others are a blue color and look sideways like some sort of trick door. I think the home must belong to the man without clothes on, because he is very confident about all of this nudity and if I am being honest, I am really uncomfortable being undressed anywhere except my own house. I used to live in a little cabin that was forty-five minutes outside of town. It was a really tiny place, painted green with a tin roof and maybe it was because I was newly single, or maybe something about living near a marina made me feel brazen, but I spent a lot of time naked. I even swept my front porch like that if it was still semi-dawn and foggy. 

The naked man in Hockney’s painting is a lot like the women at Deep Eddy, which is a spring-fed lap pool near downtown Austin, TX. I’m too nervous to actually swim laps because I’m sure someone will see me struggling along and wonder why I’m hogging a lane if I can’t even swim properly. These are things I’m working towards being less concerned about. The women’s changing room is actually my favorite part about Deep Eddy. It has bright white limestone walls that only reach about 9 or 10 feet, and then it’s all open sky, with a few overarching steel poles. On one side of the room is line of benches and a row of big-ass potted plants. They face a series of changing rooms and showers which have black shower curtains. The curtains are honestly very inadequate if you are trying to stay hidden, and I have wondered several times where they found such narrow pieces of plastic. I usually change in the very last stall, because it is rare that anyone is down there. If you go to Deep Eddy in the early mornings, there are always at least five or six older women swimming laps or changing to swim laps or changing after swimming laps. Their bodies are soft and their skin is drooping and folding and tanned, and they walk around with their swim caps on and their suits off and sometimes their goggles are looped around their neck. I cannot tell whether these women are unconcerned with their nakedness or very aware of it. I am comforted by these bodies, maneuvering amongst a small crowd of slow moving arms towel-drying hair and drooping breasts swaying as they bend to their bags or jeans or cellphones.

                                                                                                             The naked man in Hockney’s sketch                                                                                                                             is neither old nor wrinkled— instead                                                                                                                             he seems shiny, new, gleaming like a                                                                                                                           fresh-waxed sports car. 


                                                                                                              Above both men, in the far right                                                                                                                                   corner, is a leaping blur of a figure.                                                                                                                               My first thought was a snow leopard,                                                                                                                           because it is a white-ish pink, with                                                                                                                               purple-black spots. It appears to mid-                                                                                                                           pounce upon the docile scene below,                                                                                                                             and it is enormous in comparison,                                                                                                                                 even to the house.


Close your eyes, just for a second. Imagine you are at home, in your front yard, perhaps tending to the lawn, or checking the mail, or greeting a friend who has come by for a visit. Say the friend is actually a lover, one you haven’t seen for a year or two, and your heart is beating very fast at the sight of them. And all the while, or maybe in just a flash of a second, a sleek, heavy body is bearing down on you, coming so fast that your lover only has time to open his mouth in disbelief, and then the big cat is upon you both.

The title of this painting is Picture Emphasizing Stillness.

When I was in third grade, my mom would take my siblings and I to a small park behind our apartment complex—just a couple of swings and a see-saw. I remember this one afternoon in particular, swinging, my sister next to me, our mom behind us, offering a push every now and then. There were two small planes high above us, and I am not sure if I noticed them until the crash, but I remember seeing their

two silver, shiny bodies colliding, and I remember feeling how deep and

damp and still everything was, as though this sudden movement of violent

collision meant nothing else would ever move again. And then came the

noise, a garden-variety explosion sound, and I remember my mom’s face,

and feeling a heavy, dragging sort of dread, and my mom said the pieces

of plane were going to fall down right where we were, and we ran as fast

as we could back to our apartment.

We drove over to the place where the planes had crashed, all of us buckled

inside of my Mom’s Toyota hatchback, a little rag-tag band of ambulance

chasers. One of the planes had landed on a house two blocks away.

We drove by it very slowly, I don’t remember if any of us commented on

the wreckage, if mom murmured to herself, or if maybe my younger sister

was crying. The house was crushed, the small plane burrowed inside the

ground on top of it, the remains like a swollen pockmark, or a cartoon-

flattened outline of what used to be a home.


Maybe the men in Hockney’s Picture Emphasizing Stillness won’t feel a sudden rush of hot feline breath, feel the powerful body of the big cat slamming into them. Maybe the cat will misjudge its target, and land on the other side of the red house, and the men will see it just in time. Maybe the naked man with the powerful legs and back will scoop up his friend, or his lover and he will rush them to safety inside his big home with the blue windows, and they will fling themselves down on a white leather sofa and take big gulps of air and shriek with laughter, hysterical with relief, and giddy from touching each other. Or maybe the big cat never lands, maybe he is suspended up above them in indefinite limbo, and the man of the house never quite notices it, crouched up there in the sky. He continues on about his life, tending to his deep-green lawn and hedges, and hosting parties where he serves vodka Martinis with extra olives, and swims laps in his pool first thing in the morning, just like the women at Deep Eddy, continuing to breathe in slow, steady takes, as time motions through them without paying much mind.

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Picture Emphasizing Stillness, 1962 David Hockney 
source: David Hockney Foundation

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Jacket Emphasizing Stillness, hand painted by the author in acrylics on vintage leather

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Shiny black beach cows, Big Sur 2021


B in a field of flowers, 2021


Lawrence in the Garden at Blackheath Park with Lupines, Sylvia Sleigh, 1950 source: Estate of Sylvia Sleigh

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