Thursday, July 19, 2018


"So you look at a work of art and think to yourself, I could have done that. And maybe you really could have, but the issue here is more complex than that -- why didn't you? Why did the artist? And why does it have an audience? We delve into it by looking at work by artists like Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Piet Mondrian, and Cy Twombly, among others. You might find it’s not quite as simple as you think."
(5 and 1/2 minutes)
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Bullet Casings Make a Statement
Gallery on West 23rd Street
I meant to say more about this gallery, but misplaced the reference material. Another time perhaps.


 I've been laboring for weeks to bring a drawing abandoned in 1980 to a finish. No longer the strict botanical one first intended but a new version of it in mixed media with the addition of family photographs.

"The Women"


More Progress Saturday

Still tweaking Sunday

Monday July 16th
Friday July 20th Opening
Creative Center Gallery
273 Bowery
I'll show the drawing and read these three pieces

The first Cut is the Deepest

Sirens silenced the howling winds.
A bloody trail marked the steps
of a shocked mother rushed
through Emergency to
the operating theater.

An incision of 6 inches was made
through her lower abdomen,
then a second incision
opened her uterus.
I was delivered.

Thus unto this rude world I came.
Elsewhere, my father was
told I was probably dead.
It proved quite untrue.
I howled the proof.

The storm raged all night and day
I was swaddled and held apart.
In recovery, unavailable,
drugged to sleep, my
wounded mother.

What I felt I can not remember,
only imagine the pain of it
the loneliness and fear
of that brutal welcome
hearing wind howl

Childhood amnesia veils it all
for many years until one day
a bleeding wound becomes
the memory of something.
Howling confirms it.

This second cut sinks way down,
down to the level of the first,
carries it upward where
it joins the current pain.
howling's a familiar.

It goes on like that into adolescence
through adulthood and to old age
so that every cut of every kind
might call the first to mind
make a calm wind howl.

Truth is I never met Mothers mother, Deliah Cunningham because she was dead before I arrived and never met Dorothy Ryan either, nor was I present that terrible day when she ran after the family Boston Terrier, was hit by a car, died and never made it to her Grade School Graduation. I had not yet dropped on to the planet. I did meet Adelaide and Kay, not as they are portrayed in this drawing, but much later when they'd both grown, married and had kids, of which I was one. I never met the woman on the far shore digging for clams because she is a figment of my imagination; he who stands by the sea to suggest the mass Irish migration during the potato famine years that resulted in evictions and pushed many a weeping family to leave their homes or starve. That brings my story to when my own ancestors came to America, and makes me a third generation, carrying a deer horn from the Catskills where my Fathers Mother had a cabin and the rich odor of Pine dominated every season, a brain full of memories and a box of photographs. I visited Nana Slater there childhood Summers, ate wild grapes from the vine and was fattened on wheat porridge with real butter daily. Here's a little poem about the photograph of me and Nana in the Catskills:

'Cottage At Cairo''
A four years old girl in pinafore, smelling of dirt and strawberries, leans reluctantly into her Nana's body.
She frowns, or so it would seem. Perhaps the sun was in her eyes then, that scowl merely the result of squinting.
The Grandmother looks off in to the distance, encircling the child, holding perhaps too tightly? Who knows?

One can not return to ask.

All these women, no longer with me in the flesh,tell the story of how Cunningham became Ryan, one Ryan became Slater and how I was born after the death of a boy child who was carrying his Grandfathers name, which is why I was named Michelle, though I would have loved to be called Micheal. Of course, that was simply not done in forties.

Privet Hedge
When I see a privet hedge I can almost see my mothers childhood...Little Anne Adelaide stands in front of the towering hedge making her slight frame seem even more fragile despite the defiance of her stance. I guess she was not comfortable in the frilly dress or the ridiculously oversized bow and she was, I think, entirely unaware of her scraped knees or the unreliable socks rolling down and certainly unaware of the long future that would delight and disappoint until it finally consumed her. There's a blessing in that initial innocence. Neither future nor past - we live in the ever present only and the rest is fiction. All stories are fictions of a sort and every fact is relative.
I look at her in the drawing, sitting with her fierce Mother whose face is the map of her own experience, her older sister Dorothy, the truly defiant one so obviously annoyed at having to pose and her oldest sister Kay who stands like a lighthouse staring straight and true, directly at the camera, I'm touched by the way my little mother to be leans in looking up for some sort of approval. I recognize the gesture and am flooded with compassion for her.
Where, I wondered, was the brother. Perhaps he was snapping that photo for it was not a professional shot, but the sort a family takes for itself. Then, quite suddenly I realize I don't want to lift them up out of this frame, ignite them into presence, poor things. Haven't they suffered the gaze of the world long enough? Haven't they done their duty as they saw it then to the best of their ability and who am I to invade their privacy when they can no longer respond, to construct fantasies on my assumptions. Surely they don't deserve this treatment.
Perhaps I've simply become all of them...that stern mother with her mask concealing pain, my own mother needing recognition, the sad, impulsive sister and the eldest sure and confident.

If there were reincarnation, I'd be that deeply rooted privet hedge whose tiny white blooms sweeten the air gently, sufficient unto themselves, asking nothing in return.

Just found again about the  Gallery 

The Creative Center 


Mo Crow said...

beautiful work (((Michelle))) enjoy the telling!

Peggy Mcg said...

Art is story and yours such a touching one. I especially like the fact that the art you started long ago moves forward with you today to tell this story.

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

drawing is so fine to match the words that are the very best
i have read anywhere in a long time. Just Excellent, Michelle

Nancy said...

To see your art here, paired with your words makes my heart grow even fonder of my dear Michelle in NYC :) Wonderful!

jude said...

You're something else

Dee Mallon said...

oh wow, Michelle, what a combination -- the images and the poems -- such a novel and rich way to create memoir! I agree that all stories are fiction, and still, we come alive as readers and as human beings with the specificity of where we come from -- which you so beautifully render. There are so, so many phrases that I love, but here are just three: "unaware of the long future that would delight and disappoint until finally it consumed her" (wow) and "haven't they suffered the gaze of the world enough" (the problematic use of our forebears for story telling?) and the privet hedge as a former self fits so well!! "tiny white blooms sweeten the air gently, sufficient unto themselves, asking nothing in return". Bravo!!