Sunday, August 10, 2008

I could press my hand on the door where you both were.

Andrew Wyeth Helga (American 1970?)

You'll have to pardon me. It's another Sunday morning, and I'm in the mood of solipsism and romance.

Andrew Wyeth, I learned yesterday, is a mild expletive in these parts, begrudged for the incident of his celebrity, and nipicked for his style and technique. At least among the circles I travel.

He provoked the Main Line Chernobyl incident of 1986. And by incident I mean: wild love; and by Main Line I mean:

I could press my hand on the door where you both were.

While pecking out the Jonathan Richman review I tried to think of an image that evoked the album title, Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild. My first flash thought was of Helga Testorf and Andrew Wyeth. Recently, my parents came to town to see a show, and I was beached for ideas on how to keep them entertained. I told my dad that the Society Hill towers were designed by I. M Pei, and that about five blocks from them was, in the lobby of an old office building, a sprawling mural by the Philadelphia-born artist, Maxfield Parrish, how it's like a great scare in a horror movie. No matter how many times you see it, and train your imagination to know its there, you simply cannot prevent the surprise. Since we didn't actually go see to see it, I'm sure the effect remains sadly unaccomplished in them both.

You can't get them to go goddamn anywhere.

I handed my mom a book of the Helga pictures. Her first response was that these people, the artist and model, were unmistakably in a kind of unhidden love. I didn't know the story. Yeah, probably.

Then this Raw and Wild thing happened, and I came across Bob's site, which is terrific. Great insights and choices. You can read his account there (just click on the name of the blog in he linked entry above to be redirected to his most recent post, which I also highly recommend), of the secret creative relationship carried on between Wyeth and Helga, whom he contracted as his nurse in 1971, and with whom he continued well into the 1980's. What struck me about the story itself, and by Bob's recapitulation was the--I think--noble desire to find shock in the human routine. And especially in creative affairs. Perhaps it is that moviemaking as an artform is graying, or that tabloids curdle our taste for banal sensations. We feel guilty, or somehow above this kind of investigation. But we ought not. This is, as Bob duly comments, a remarkable story.

I suppose it is also sort of timely just now, given the breaking news of John Edwards' affair with Rieile Hunter, a videographer he met while campaigning several years back. I've read the outrage of bloggers and in comments columns to the news stories. The reactions have been varied, and most often concern what this guy did to the Democratic Party and to his cancer-stricken wife. Not knowing those involved personally I can only say the truth of both impacts might be greater than I could imagine. Though I suspect it is far smaller. Or more accurately, greater only in the external soul that keeps it alive because there is a need for the warmth of our own mistakes, and when it is too awful or inconvenient to consider we look outside. I do genuinly hope, against the grain of our shared politics and all the good she's done, that when Arianna Huffington's own misdeeds come to light, there might be a force as meddlesome and petty as hers to burn a cross-shaped souvenir into her forehead. But I digress.

You see the idea is fascination, not purposeless snooping. Not sportsman's cruelty. Again, I digress.

Of course there is a fundamental difference between the two affairs, that being the progeny. For the Edwardses it must be a rancid comeuppance: all humiliation, pity, and scorn. The commentors and bloggers want to know how these enomous errors could have happened. Poor politicians, poor suicide monkeys.

With the Helga situation that question doesn't apply. There is an articulate. and moreover purposeful, asking at work in the paintings--over 200 of them in total. It is not to say an enormous error wasn't made, only that something full of living light and brown earthliness overgrew it.

1 comment:

F. A. Nettelbeck said...

Man, that is VERY sweet.... think of ALL of the hands, was/is....