I thought I’d write to you about my unhappiness about being divorced twice and try to absorb your perspective as one who experienced a handful of intimate relationships and marriages. It has been eighteen years since my second divorce and I thought I’d write to your ghost today. Afterwards I am going to immerse myself in viewing imagery of your women. Do you think that you were a subliminal role model for those artists who have experienced more than one relationship? My husband and life partner Charles (Russell) and I were talking about artist divorces last night. We wondered whether the career of an artist is to blame. Charles suggested that I confront my feelings about divorce and try to understand my life from a positive point of view. I can’t imagine that you had any shame. My marriages were not horrific. I was not miserable as I know others to be but in both instances I realized that I was not in an ideal match. My romanticism and my idealism may be the very reason why my marriages did not work for me. In both marriages, I felt that neither Robert and I nor Steve and I were strongly committed to the marriages--in Chicago as a painting graduate student in the late seventies and later in Hoboken with Steve in the mid eighties. In Hoboken, I led the life of young Hoboken artists, living in Steve’s loft where he did his photography, having sushi with our group of artist friends regularly either at home or at Steve’s sushi club in a Hoboken restaurant. I did not paint at night and only painted two-three days a week. Night was a social time, visiting neighbors, having barbecues uptown, making dinner together where I was the taster and Steve was the chef. Steve and I entertained and we did not follow recipes. None of my friends were ambitious New York artists. We were all trying to find ourselves. Steve did not practice his art photography. He was much more involved with renovating his loft, his college friend Jim’s apartment with whom he collaborated on renovation. Steve and Robert were not intellectuals as I was becoming, slowly in Chicago and then in Hoboken. The American Museum of Natural History exposed me to passionate intellectuals, in spite of the fact that they were scientists. Subsequently Rutgers University nurtured me. Manhattan nurtured me. I had always been serious about art but had not read avidly criticism or history. I was a serious viewer. I interpreted what I saw using my value system and my experience in the studio. My experiences in the natural world also influenced my interpretations of visual art for I saw a relationship between the two worlds no matter how abstract and non objective a work was. I did not really believe that art was solely intellectual and a cultural construct. Its aesthetics were awe inspiring just as is nature, whether beautiful or visceral, ugly and repulsive. Art was God full.
I could not live with ambivalence–whether in my painting or in my marriages. I was too insecure. I don’t know why I made bad choices of partners. I think I was interested in being married and a stable life so as not to upset my parents yet was not aware of how a true partnership works. I was consumed by my painting and by my part time curator’s position. I did not have the capacity to be consumed by another person. Now I believe that I could not be consumed with marriage because the match was wrong, whether rugged mountaineer as Robert was or Hoboken photographer and sushi chef as Steve. Steve had many friends. He made jokes constantly . He was sly about his feelings. He and I renovated my studio with my general partners. He took charge of the sheet rock, the spackling, the tiling, the design of my studio and gave me direction. He was a skilled artist contractor, much like my partner Kit. But when Charles and I became aware of our feelings for each other, I immediately wondered whether Steve loved me deeply. Our ambivalence was too great for me. I had not yet started my juxtapositions which present dichotomy as my visual strategy. Are they self portraits? Are they inspired by my life? I regret that it took so long for me to find myself but am grateful that I finally did. My marriages were a process of self discovery just as my painting has been. I think that if I had worked doing physical work I would have been more at one with Steve. The intellectual atmosphere of Rutgers University caused me to doubt the rightness of my marriage. I was consumed by my job. I felt that Steve’s friends were in another world from mine. It was difficult to be alone. I’ll write again. But I’d like to mention something relevant to artists who have had failed partnerships or marriages. As a high school student my older brother Charles remarked to me that he thought that artists were selfish and self absorbed in light of the world’s social problems. I didn’t agree with him and didn’t think that I had any other choices anyway. I was only interested in becoming an artist. Because significant art affected me spiritually and philosophically I believed that my abstraction was socially relevant as well while not having the same purpose as a well written article in a newspaper. I wanted fulfillment. I wanted to be transported into the realm of human consciousness. I thought that I would have an audience for my passionate works. I didn’t realize in high school that the dominant trend of the art world would soon be to fulfill one’s political imperatives. That political conscience would soon be the dominant core of visual art. When I think about my marriages I believe that the striving to achieve greatness may be at odds with the daily life of marriage for most. It was for me. My brother may have been right about artists’ self absorption.
I just wanted to tell you that I saw your retrospective at MOMA in 1980 several times. When I was in Brooklyn one afternoon after working at the Museum of Natural History in the volunteer department on Memorial Day Weekend , just a week or so after your show had opened I was mugged by three teenage boys and my six Picasso tickets for a friend and me were stolen along with my purse and work clothes. I replaced them at what was a great cost to me and saw your show several times. Not three times as I had planned but twice. I was ecstatic that I had moved to New York City just several months earlier and had this profound life experience. Thank you Picasso. Thank you 20th century_ Here I am. Happy in my marriage to Charles of almost twenty years.
Last year I began to broaden my medium and worked in sculpture more than oils. I created a series of floor pieces that look very contemporary, placing my work in the “here and now” for I did not look to mid century whatsoever. My juxtapositions are misleading in that they are passionately painted and often aggressively juxtaposed. But they are not just passionate; they are intellectual statements about life now. One cannot ignore the juxtaposition. It is integral to the meaning. They are not whole without it.