There’s a jazz to moving through a day in Manhattan, an openness to improvisation required—stepping into the street, finger raised for the next top-lit taxi—descending into subway tunnels, rushing up to the next car, slipping in before the doors jerk close— side-stepping a crowd of bundled up workadays or passing into a impromptu circus scene at the mouth of Union Square or lending an arm to the old woman stuck at the curb, made immobile by the ice. Deep into the last weekend of Matisse’s cut-outs at MOMA, the crowd converges in a room and circles the walls filled with playful collage, taking in all the bright color and whimsical shape, the flowing lines, moving in and out of each other’s sight lines, mumbling “sorry”s and “no problem”s. I position myself to get some face time with one of the four Blue Nudes—my eye moving back and forth along the figures. Taking a clandestine snap with my phone. Bending down to read about their genesis. Matisse’s assistant, Lydia, says “A small thing, blue on white. That was the start.” In the last room, everyone seems high on joy, laughing and nearly dancing with one another. We’ve been showered with such grace and play. Are reminded what hard work and perseverance in the face of death can accomplish. Walking out into the winter grey. Finding a bar to rest in, choosing a drink and a few appetizers. Letting our little table get lost in the group babble. Going back through the show together. One of us, an artist himself, shakes his head and says, “He was just an old man in bed with a pair of scissors. I fucking hate the guy.”
For My Friend, Who Said She Didn’t See Her Face In Any Of My Collages
When I walk in, an invisible docent stills my breath with a small hand gesture, reaches in, winds up my heart then lets me go—all wobbly spinning—hundreds of small snapshots pinned on the walls in computer code mosaic—vintage pin-ups next to newly-staged copies repeated across the walls—each one a wink. I think, You’ve wanted just this exact thing. I think, Here are all of your faces, each one of your thousand poses. Piano jazz seeps out of an adjacent room, elegant, geometric—I dance in its parquet, silent stroll, stutter step. Beauty with plaited braids on bed, knees up. Lady of the Skin in Lamplight, uplifted chin. Sultress reclining sipping a martini. Sexpot draped over a sedan, circa 1957. Ebony pin-up—hair piled, legs slightly spread—on day bed. I think, This is what you need, a room like this to walk into for every time you forget. I think, This is what you need to remind you you are beautiful. This gallery of women, just for you, ready and willing, each pose a possibility, framing so—just so—you can look straight into all your own faces.
–after Lorna Simpson
Notes from Vegas Strip
…a land of canned music seeping nostalgically out of every bush. Of young women waiting to accompany you in a photo, naked but for pasties, a pair of panties and a set of bunny ears. Of a garrulous Elvis impersonator riding around drunk in a scooter cart and insulting passers-by. Of earnest men dressed all in black broadcasting the word of Jesus on street corners. Yellow minis, giant hair, and his-and-her t-shirts announcing “King” and “Queen.” Billboards like movie screens. The glitter and glare glancing across glass buildings backdropped by sure-bet blue. Overweight adults lugging flagons of florescent Mardi Gras-style Hurricanes. Tricked out cars passing dignified under a giant, looping rollercoaster. Eager and desperate young men passing out fliers with signature flair. A storm trooper next to a ninja turtle next to a transformer next to a man sleeping on the sidewalk, his cardboard sign smudged and illegible. A single, dancing blue M&M. & the grimy old man in the bright orange t-shirt announcing GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS…
Photo credit: Stephanie Glaros