every other day

15 AUG 07

from Max's diary, August 14th:

K said later that she didn't cry until she was telling me. It's often that way. (Usually things don't seem completely real to me until I've told her.) She said: "I just heard that Elizabeth Murray died yesterday." For a split second I thought she meant Elizabeth Robinson--our house is so full of people now, or not people but their images, like a translucent version, their names, so many names in the air, and their work, their phrases mixed together--our house is full of poets. But then, in my memory, I saw Elizabeth Murray's art. And I pictured her from photographs, and from a television show a few years ago about artists.

Elizabeth Murray

K and I talked about illness, about the weeks or months or years before a person dies. We spoke of Bob Holman--I think of their daughters as young kids but they're probably in their 20s by now. Still really young to lose your mother. We said something about being the one who goes on living when the person you love doesn't. It's the next day.

Elizabeth Murray

We were standing by the books. Kate went over to the shelves, found a book we have of Elizabeth Murray's paintings and drawings. We sat on the edge of the bed, looked at pictures, reading her words on the opposite pages, her comments about the work.                  [click image below to enlarge]

"Painter's Partner III" a drawing by Elizabeth Murray

"I was thinking of Pilgrim's Progress and of painters being pilgrims." - Elizabeth Murray

I thought of the day K and I came to New York together the first time.
We'd driven out from Oregon to see if we could live here, and after about a week and a half made a handshake deal with Tom Jackson: he would turn that old mess of wood that'd been a shelter for pigs into a building where Kate could paint, and we'd come back and rent it and find someplace nearby to live, that tiny duplex apartment where we'd be then for two years, behind the Chevrolet dealership, next door to a schoolteacher who was learning to play electric guitar. ("Chris is playing 'Satisfaction'!") Following the handshake, before we drove back across the country, we went in to Manhattan on the train. I wanted to start with the Empire State Building. Old school. After going up and coming down, we walked all the way to Soho, 35 or 40 blocks, to the (old) Paula Cooper Gallery. By accident we entered on the side street, where they had a smaller second room, but we didn't understand where we were. We tried to fathom how this space could be the famous Paula Cooper Gallery. That place we'd seen in photos of Borofsky's installations, how could that have possibly been just this room?

On each of the 4 walls hung a huge painting by Elizabeth Murray. There was only enough room for one per wall, their great shapes standing out with four to six inches--maybe even a foot--of depth, about 10 feet by 10 feet or more and really strong in the room. How did these paintings ever fit through the little doorway? We were completely disoriented. There was another door in one corner, slightly ajar, and I walked through it and found myself in a cramped hall, what I later realized would've been the offices of the gallery. I paused, eyeing some pieces of art hanging there, trying in vain to uncover the experience I'd been anticipating for months. A guy at a desk turned and asked if he could help me, I said no, that I was just looking, and he said, "This area isn't open to the public." I didn't say anything, didn't ask him for help with my confusion, I just walked back into the tiny gallery space. Kate was looking at the paintings. I whispered again, "How can this be the Paula Cooper?" K said, "But these are pretty great, right?" gesturing to the paintings she'd been taking in, intently, one by one. We looked at them together then, their construction, their paintedness. These were actual pieces of art that Elizabeth Murray had made, not reproductions, not pictures in magazines read hungrily in a little town 3,000 miles away.

"Formerly Fleet" photo from ARTseenSOHO

This afternoon, Kate decided to put together a post about Elizabeth Murray. We read the New York Times obituary, found other articles online, gathered up photos. I turned back to the job I'd started earlier, Kate sat at her computer hardly clicking her keyboard. After a while I asked, "When you think of her, what's the first thing that comes to mind?"

Elizabeth Murray

"The first thing? The way she looks. I always thought she was a great looking person. I'd like to look like her."

What else do you think of? "She seemed strong. And friendly. Her work doesn't look like anyone else's work. There still aren't very many women artists who've gone as far as she did. And she went that far while being a decent person. She worked hard. She was determined, she had drive. And she got there. She seemed to have integrity.

"You just want to feel that there are women who are strong, who might have a good marriage, who have integrity, and who manage to get there. I didn't know her. I don't know who she really was. But you need people out there who can--is 'example' the word? You need people out there who inspire you to keep going. She's one of those people."

Elizabeth Murray


from Elizabeth Murray: Paintings and Drawings:

with excerpts from her comments [click on images to enlarge]

"Yikes" a painting by Elizabeth Murray

"Yikes is my favorite cup painting because it reminds me of a forest.

... I also was thinking very specifically of the hand bursting out of the head and a yell created out of the negative parts or the white of the wall."

"Sail Baby" a painting by Elizabeth Murray

"It's about childhood and using yellow."

"Beginner" a painting by Elizabeth Murray

"I thought of the little mars violet spiral as the voice of the heart or the real inner part of the shape."

. . .

Elizabeth Murray

Elizabeth Murray

. . .

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