Oct 24, 2007


Here was another painting I saw recently. An oil, hanging in someone's pantry. You look at it quickly and you had the impression of an abstract and unfinished. But you wait a moment, let it soak in and you begin to see a man and woman sitting at a kitchen table. They're difficult to see, as though in the low light of late night. Something cooks on the stove. Empty wine bottles stand leaning on each other on a counter. The plates on the table are half finished.

The man appears older than the woman. Perhaps, they're married. He's very distinguished, with white hair. She is striking as well, with long black hair and an odd smile. Her face is partly hidden behind a computer screen. I would have said Asian, but you can't be sure. He looks over her shoulder. Clearly, they're comfortable with each other and yet there's something amiss. They don't quite go together. Something in the body language doesn't match.

Whatever is lacking, it's made up for by the fact they they've spent much time talking and consoling each other. Just now he looks very tired, the kind of fatigue that comes from being at odds with the world, with being abandoned by friends, by having to sit and listen to the wind all day, by having a constant stomach ache and waking up every morning with foreboding from strange dreams, feeling endlessly undone by the season, struck by the smallest details, disheveled by the mail, betrayed, fearful, hideously sentimental... But saved from complete despair by seeing his children.

Now, late at night, both subdued and enlightened by alcohol, he thinks he can see all the layers of the moment, that he can see himself clearly. And he's saying to himself — the painter's image is so vivid that we can nearly him say it — "this is the start of a very, very long winter."

Oct 13, 2007

Monet Couples

In the Monet painting, Terrace-At-Sainte-Adresse, two couples address circumstance. The older couple, judging by his white beard, sits facing the sun. There is the suggestion of estrangement, by the distance between their chairs, by the angles of their bodies, and also because there is a third chair, empty. As though perhaps they await someone, or else someone has come and gone. Something is incomplete. A ghost stands between them. A dead child, perhaps. That the empty chair is to her left seems significiant. Once, she was surrounded, secure and protected by old and younger. Her life had contour. She was in the scheme of things. Now her flank is exposed. She faces the sun and uses her parasol, not to protect herself from the heat but to gather it.

Meanwhile, her man, the old man, appears reflective, silent, stiff. He faces the sun as though it were a spotlight, as though the light itself is praise. And yet he's become a hermit, he's felt no passion in years and now on this late afternoon his mind settles on his illustrious history and perhaps an acknowledgment of the stunning mystery that awaits him.

The other couple, clearly younger, is engrossed in each other. She has her back to the sun, her back and neck protected by a parasol. She faces the man directly; the man stands at a glancing angle. He cannot take her full on, perhaps he hasn't decided about her. or he's trying to get away or stay, he doesn't know. They are younger. Life is still to come. She asks for his attention. He accomodates.

But time is short. The afternoon is fleeting. A southerly wind picks up. The sun is dropping to an accute angle. Decisions must be made.

* * *

A copy of this painting, done 20 years ago, leans against the plastic garbage bins. The painting is badly damaged. The truth is, it was not cared for, an under appreciated heirloom left in a shed always with the intention of framing it. But never done. A painting of the painting would include a third couple, sitting off to one side, in an enclosed urban garden. The shed is to their left; the door closed, but not securely. We can see a broken lock, but not broken by vandals, simply a lock never closed. We presume that the spirits in the shed come and go as they please. We can also conclude that this couple, as right as they are for each other, are careless, with their possessions and perhaps each other.

Meanwhile, the man who painted the copy of Terrace-At-Sainte-Adresse has been dead for nearly 20 years. He once sat on his brick porch and labored over the painting by the hour, for years on end. Finally, when he finished it was his most prized work and he hung it over the mantle with great pride. Some people who came to his house, and who didn't know much about Art, assumed it was an original.

"Who did that?" they might ask and he would reply, "Max Monet." Then he would go on and tell exotic stories of women he'd fallen in love with, who urged him to paint this scene, just for them.....

Oct 7, 2007

winning hands

Two dozen parents line the field. The game begins promtly. The day is clean as sheets. The night before the same two teams played; Dash's team won. With 30 seconds left he scored the winning goal on a stunning header. It was the proper end to a bad affair, which included a fight between the two opposing coaches. "What is this, Koren tactics?" says an assistant coach of the other team. He's referring to one of Dash's team mates who has been using his elbows freely. But neither side is clean. The man goes on taunting and making malicious sounds with his lips. "What are you, gay?" respond's Dash' coach who is in a particularly dour mood. The two men face off, rub chests, swear. Nevertheless, at the end of the game, the teams shake hands.

The next morning the other team seems desperate. Several of their players trash talk and foul. I am told they go to the Day School, known as a haven for rich, spoiled kids. An article in the Wall Street Journal describing the rush to get into Ivy track schools in the city discovered that intereviews at the Day School were monitored from behind two way glass.

At half time the game is tied. Early in the second half one of Dash's teammates is punched in the face. Then following one of their goals the scorer comes running down the field right in front of Dash's coach mocking him. Things decline. Once again the other coach hurls insults. He is Argentinian. Dash's coach responds. He cannot believe it, he keeps saying, how could this be? How could this man, this team be saying these things?

The game ends. At the last moment Dash's team wins. But no shaking hands this time. Players and coaches, including me, swirl through the kids, taking abuse and giving it. One parent comes up to Dash's coach and says he's a disgrace to coaching, presumably for not allowing his players to shake hands. She doesn't explain. The coach had been disgusted and feared a fight would break out. Moreover, the day before one of his former players, once a promising striker, had committed suicide.