Friday, February 23, 2018


One of the men looked straight ahead with a confidence bred from conceit while the other twisted his head and glared with jealous contempt.  There they remained frozen in a moment captured in a prison of oil paint. Their age difference apparent through the wrinkles on their faces and the thickness of their hair, the years between them twisting their love affair into a complex battle where youth seemed to trump wisdom.
The two observers stood staring at the portrait, their souls slipping into the shoes of their painted surrogates. She knew her power was with her age while he seethed with want and lust he had no power to control. The gulf between them was as wide and unbridgeable as the inability of the two painted figures to get up and move their chairs closer together. Neither pair of lovers could fight their destinies. Neither one of them could reach out extending the arm of love. Neither pair could give up what was their reality, one set had youth while the other had the sage wisdom of experience. Each thought they wanted what the other had. They either coveted those things that had passed them by or were too far in the future to manifest. The painted pair would remain young and famous forever in their canvas coated world. The other couple would walk on to the next painting. She would still be younger than he, cloaked in her own insecurities of deserving his love. He would still be the one questioning his ability to remain appealing and relevant when all each wanted was an extended hand of comfort and exceptance.

He folded his arms in regret and shame. As much as the man in the painting screamed from behind his Plexiglas window he could do little to help him. He remembered the scene. It was a flashback to his youth, sitting in front of the black and white television in his aunt's living room watching his father inside the sound proof booth. His Dad was a contestant on the $64,000 Question. His aunt's living room was abuzz with the clink of cocktail glasses as all of his parent's relatives and friends sat on the arms of couches or crouched forward in one of the two Eames chairs that they had swiveled toward the TV. As a boy of six he was too young to understand the intricacies of the show, all he could see was his Dad standing inside a glass box dressed in a sports coat and shiny tie his glasses seeming to be steamed up giving him a foggy appearance. Everyone in the room stopped talking and leaned into the set as Hal March got out his note card to ask his Dad his $32,000 question. He could see the sweat start to beat up on his father's forehead. None of the relatives or friends sitting in his Aunt's living room knew that his Dad had been prepped before hand. His Dad had a reputation of honesty. He had always been a good man. None of them could have predicted how much this lie was tearing him apart. None of them knew what was hidden in his heart or what he had been concealing these past few months. Not even his mother was aware of the how isolated and alone his father had been. None of them knew he had been embezzling from his clients. None of them knew his desperation. Certainly as a boy of six he knew nothing more than the sweat he could see on his father's forehead. None of them knew that this time he didn't know the answer to the question until he pressed his hands on the Plexiglas wall and started screaming.

Booty, bum, derriere, fanny, buttocks, butt, heinie, caboose, tush, tuchus, ass, the words were running through her head as she debated what would be the most appropriate term to use to begin the explanation of the meaning of this painting. Bottom was the first word that came to mind but perhaps a bit to juvenile for a precocious three-year-old who was after all at a David Hockney exhibit. She had to discuss penis in the other room so this image didn't look as if it was going to be as difficult. New York children grow up with an anatomical knowledge far beyond their Midwestern counterparts. As New York City parents they had purposefully been very open with their bodies to help their kids have a healthy relationship with their own private parts. It was still a bit titillating to a preschooler to imagine another adult's hehind other than her own parents. The questions came pretty hard and fast
"Where are her underpants?"
"Is she asleep?"
 "I think she's just pretending to be asleep like Daddy does sometimes"
"What happened to her other hand?"
To settle the first two questions she settled on a story of having fallen asleep having taking off the wet bottoms of her swimming suit after coming back from the pool.
The Daddy issue was met with a terse "I don't think Daddy pretends to be asleep" knowing full well he does do that as his way of avoidance. As to the missing hand she decided best to leave that one alone.  It was a David Hockney painting after all.

I quickly identified him as out of my league but the impulse to stare was too strong for me to overcome. I stood like a pillar of stone my feet unable to move closer or turn and flee from my desire at an unlikely affair. How long would the man in the beige coat stay where he was? When he turned away would he even notice me? There was such confidence in the way he stood upright, erect, shoulders square and boldly self-assured. In the pool of my imagination I wanted to go up and put my hand on his shoulder, ask him where he thought that crazy red road might lead.  Would he want to travel there with me? I'd pay for the opportunity to spend a day, an hour, a minute sitting next to him driving on that red road on the way to a hidden retreat on top of that magenta mountain. I was as giddy as the colors in the painting fantasizing about a relationship as impossible and confusing as the drawn perspective distorting that painted landscape into a bizarre joyride of lust. What was he thinking? Was he fantasizing about a white BMW convertible driving up that same zigzagging mountain road? Was he dreaming of LA or Tuscany or the French Alps?  A million opportunities for getting him to recognize me popped up and disappeared in my head the way they say your life passes when death unexpectedly happens. I died and lived a thousand deaths in the seconds I waited for him to turn around. I just wanted to catch his face, stare into his eyes in a way that let him know I wanted him.  I willed him to turn toward me. For a split second I squeezed my eyes shut hoping I could summon the powers to make him pivot in my direction and in that fraction of a second like my imaginary road trip to his lips he was gone.

Portrait of David Hockney
Cecil Beaton, photography
Represented by Staley-Wise Gallery, New York City

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