At the museum today, a young couple stands before a painting called The Yellow Lampshade. The young couple is dressed inconspicuously, in light colors. Their faces are plain. Their very youth provides their color and aliveness. The painting depicts a couple standing in a corner windowed apartment. A penthouse, I guess you would say. They are standing a distance apart. A good stretch of carpet between them and the big windows with all the gray skyscrapers in them. The young couple at the museum is kissing. With deep love, you might say. But lightly, too. Sweetly but lingering. I am standing near the painting, closest to the man. My husband stands before the next painting over, closest to the woman. We give them their time–young love is to cherish. And when they move away, we come together in front of the painting and kiss, smiling.
Another painting is by Modigliani, a favorite painter of mine. This painting depicts a Polish friend of the artist, Pierre-Edouard Baranowski. Either a poet or a painter; maybe both. The subject is described as having blue eyes. But really, the Pole’s eyes are a complete blank. Even though I read the printed placard beside the painting, I still thought of the subject as being female. The angular face; the tilted head, the pronounced cupid’s bow. I loved that she appeared to be wearing a black jacket and a white shirt with the collar loose. Like Patti Smith, I thought.
Here’s the third: In a gray gravel alley shirtless metal workers called puddlers relax, shirtless. They are pale. Spindly. Not mighty workers of the world. Yet their professional was a skilled one. Later, I learn that the job entails continuously working with boiling iron. Puddlers performed strenuous work, very close to the high heat–a job of skill as well as strength and stamina. In the painting, one’s skin is reddened at his clavicle. All of them are arrayed in poses of stretching, reclining and twisting. Poses recalling classic Greek sculptures. The green onion stink of their skin, their unwashed hair and animal restlessness; palpable to me. Their male-ness, you might call it. In their way they are mighty workers. Still, the factory behind them looms large. If you were here, I would touch your arm to show them to you.
Bidar means awake. Patricia Bidar is a writer and California native looking forward to life’s third act.