The body

‘The body’, no longer ‘her body’, there in a diorama almost set precisely in an alcove filled out with flowers, two roseate globe lamps and two red-shaded tapers, become as a whole array, a fetish upon which the emotions and memories about the woman are channeled, but try as I might, looking upon the face, not quite right, slightly off, as though molded and coated with the crushed petals of a dry mauve flower, and dust, I could not picture a moving living memory, the body had taken them from me, it was not until later, in bed, that I could ’see’ her laughing, with her partial plate and coffee-rasped throat, because what was there and the way it sat in the room was the hinge point in the forgetting process, where life becomes the caricature of ‘the sleeping body’, of ‘her sleeping body’, and it is at that point you are shaken to abandon your attachment to embodied memories, by depositing them onto the fetish doll, and the final time you turn your back, after all the receptional and conversational dismissals, you leave those desires and applications, and equations of ‘her’ upon ‘it’ and you take her away as a completely memorial construction.

(Out of sequence) And even though I had seen him more recently, the way he haunts me is through the last time I saw him in Los Angeles. We had made plans to have lunch together. I met him at his house in Silver Lake. Time stretched out while it was happening in that period washed with freedom. It was probably mid-February, only one month after my studies wrapped up, but I already felt such a flying feeling escaping from school, into a critically slowed life for a short time, that seeing him again already felt like the seamless subduction of lapses in long friendships. We went to lunch at Fred 62 and then back to his house to talk. Amy returned home and joined us in winter daylight and the white afternoon dimmed quickly. I shared my schema for a novel that in a commitment to their not seeing me fail, although I assume they forgot about my brief exposition, I dumped the next seven years into. We talked about the resolution of my thesis efforts, I answered loads of questions about me and my aspirations. In the first day of Perry’s studio he shared a truth with us that I remember in intent but not in phrasing.  “As much as I will dedicate my time to you and your work, nothing will ever be as important to me as my own work.” That was all he needed to say to let his gravity and his efforts explode in the silence underlying all of the selflessness that characterized my time with him for the duration. I recall an intuitive accessibility to Perry’s work that let him remain silent about it. Coming from an academic setting where talking about one’s work is all there was, Perry’s indulgence in listening and the experiential vocality of his work characterized him more as a builder, a stoic practitioner, than an academic showman. Although I identified with that silence I felt it was less born of shame, like mine was, than it was a calculation. We lingered quite a while into the evening. We cooked dinner and continued talking. But of all that conversation only the admonition that he left me with lingers, again in intent rather than phrasing. “Stay with your work, don’t let anything get in the way of it, there will be a lot of people and forces that see it as their right to change you or distract you, but you have to stay with it.” I thought, “of course I will, what could stop me on this journey?” But in retrospect, driving duskward in Fort Worth, I don’t see it as a call to take the vows, to eschew everything that wasn’t my thoughts directly expressed in graphite on mylar, but a call to make all of those experiences part of The Work. The things that get in my way should be digested, the things that make me feel warm on my neck should be admitted into the skein, not to escape but to indulge. That was for me, and it has worked, although it has been a rather crippling struggle. But when I stood in front of Perry’s work his admonition meant something slightly different, “I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.”

I was able to sneak past the glass-walled gallery out to the stairs only catching a glimpse of the army of drawings ranked, arranged, filed there like the eyes of the terra cotta warriors glistening into life on the field of white monoliths. I found Leach in a colorless light-filled studio sitting next to his laptop with a drafting table perpendicular to it.

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