My figure drawing professor approached me after class and asked if I’d model for her. It would take just an hour, she said, and I’d be be fully clothed. She needed women for her “vices” series. She said I had an interesting face.
I arrived at the appointed time in a white t-shirt and shorts, and met the other model. She was dark-haired, like me, with a face I wanted to fall asleep beside.
Decades later, somewhere in the world, she and I are hanging in a hall or rolled up in a closet together, in a work entitled “Jealousy.”
It occurs to me that the idea of “The Gaze” is a tricky one, when contemplating artworks and those who view them, because there is at once the Human Gaze, which we as persons experience as a collective, then the Gendered Gaze, where individuals encounter artwork as men, women, non-binary or agender, then the Aged Gaze, which considers the completely arbitrary measuring device of years alive on earth, not to mention the Race Gaze, the Colonized Gaze, and the Marginalized Gaze, all of which happen parallel to the Reflected Gaze, where the (inanimate and unconscious (?)) artwork itself regards the viewer.
The train yard painting stands four feet by six, at least.
Listen here. It’s simple.
There’s a gravel railroad bed
a white clapboard shed (green vines creeping)
And three black fuel train cars
All under a pale sky with a corner storm.
We decided we need to have it, though
No wall in our home is big enough.
It will persuade
It will overtake
It will draw us through its signals
There will be a whistle and the slow whine of wheels
And we will be travelers, tic-tac-toeing,
Climbing the ladder ties, riding the spine
Through the wall, away, non-stop.
For my college degree, I had to take Studio Art classes. My Life Drawing professor gave us explicit instructions to never throw failed art works away. “Even if it’s terrible. Even if it’s experimental, and failed horribly. I need to see all of your work. I’ll be kind,” she said.
Of course, I didn’t do what she asked.
Self-portrait, in the garbage. Awful action pose using cross-hatching, tossed away.
For some reason, words work differently. I don’t throw away what doesn’t work, or what’s been abandoned, or what’s been crossed out in confusion. It’s easier, with words, to be kind.
If I had to (today) pick an item to take to a desert island, it would be a coffee table book of art history (painting, sculpture, architecture) showing works (great and obscure) from all eras, which would be a catalog of beauty (for my eyes), but would also describe the succession of styles from what came before to where they did lead, because that might explain how my mind, which for a year was a torpid watercolor (bleeding formless across a fiber card that was illness) has leaped into the urgent, saturated squares and black borders of a comic book.