Portraits & Passages

Chapter 42

BIAFRAN MADONNA

 

A Painting Abandoned in a Paris Basement

I sort of shed paintings as I traveled through life – sometimes as outright gifts to people who were close to me, but otherwise as loans. Then as the years would go  by, and people disappear, so would the paintings. Some honored my paintings. Some abandoned them as Eileen Stein did with “Biafran Madonna”, left in a Paris basement when she departed France in 1969.

A decade later the lover of a gay friend attacked his house and slashed in two “The Jewess Accused”. That pretty much shook me up as you might suppose. My friend  paid for it being pieced together, but I had most of the gashes kept visible. Over the years I decided that they improved the painting. Only recently have I realized  that I was acquiescing to a deconstructive act of Time and Chance.

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Joseph and the Sphinx

Even Jim, whom I lost contact with for over twenty some years, loaned out to another friend “Joseph Accused” while unintentionally discarding its optional  canopy canvas that could be placed over the first to form another image: “Joseph and the Sphinx” seen through its cut out windows. What was most interesting was  the pattern of the shadow following the edge of the cut out opening thrown onto the first image.

At least, like most of the lost works, there are photographs of it that Jim took, God bless him! One of which was reproduced on a four- page spread opposite “Joseph  Accused” in the February 1982 issue of “Art in America”.

I was always amused by the thought of Barbara Schwartz’s bust turned into the behind quarters of the sphinx was appropriate for a Leo. Hard to believe that was thirty-five years ago.

Before she came to France, Barbara had written me about how she enjoyed cooking and love. When she finally arrived after negotiating for my absorbing all the  costs for her trip, she announced to me that she was on a diet and off the pill. However, she did offer to boil water for my oatmeal. After all she was giving up being in New York where Elaine de Kooning wanted her.

The last time I saw her must be close to twenty-five years ago. She was in between a row of drawings at an exhibition at NYU on Washington Square. I turned tail  before she saw me. But even then time was no friend of hers. She was no longer the new girl on the block. Instead of becoming the star she had imagined for herself she was left with only a walk on and a line or two. Poof!

 

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