This past weekend was in Chicago, seeing my father and aunt, me and John being voluptuously materialistic aesthetes, I am realizing I would never have started this blog in Akron, there would have been no reason, I come back here, and crawl into a cold white bed like Clarissa Dalloway, and then I must send out missives, but in the city, in big cities that I love, I am too distracted and stimulated. I have not started reading well for the book, but I have started thinking about the book, here and elsewhere, and pretty soon in a month's time I will have to get serious, and I just want to post on my wall Burroughs' quip to a writer with block JUST DO WHAT I DID SHOOT THE BITCH AND WRITE A BOOK, but then that would be perhaps suicidal, as I am in this situation both the bitch (character) as well as the author, and so no book would be written at all. And then I think of the story in today's paper about Afghan women who set themselves on fire in order to try to escape their oppressive family environments, and that links to me to Cixous' notion of the woman writer self-immolating. And so forth.
Notes on the weekend. A dizzying amount of thought + art. But I have also been gloss + surface. Before leaving for Chicago I worried over my dirty sharp nails, so I went to the mall and got a manicure, it was a gaudy salon in the mall that tried to have a sort of fancy sheen to it, but it was really sketchy, and a young bored thug type painted my nails a dusty pinkish brown as he talked about girls and Facebook to the other young bored thug type who was waiting for customers. I almost never paint my nails, but I have been feeling that desire for the feminine, for the mother, and my mother wore kind of coral nails, and so I felt a longing for that. And then today teaching today, barely teaching, speaking out loud at the center of a room, I felt my nails swirl in the air, as I gestured with my wrists and hands this way and that, feeling the slide and clink of my new silver cuff, and it was a different very feminine sensation, a new costumery.
Also before going to Chicago (also New York in a few days, this is a concentrated period of LEAVING of BEING SEEN so I am very eager for this of being out in public and not holed up here in ne Ohio) I went to Sephora and got new eyemakeup, very glittery dark green eyeshadow that I contour around my lids. I am returning somehow to being a green girl lately. It is probably either getting ready for the elaborate role (writing?) or boredom. Also the hairstylist at the Lincoln Park salon was sick with bronchitis and had broken a rib so she basically took off all my hair and eyebrows, much to my dismay, I now have almost penciled in eyebrows like a chinadoll, and then a very short dark curled haircut. I looked in the mirror the other day and realize - I am beginning to look like a modernist. Like more Mina Loy hopefully than Jane Heap, you know, I already wear the weird costumes and cloche hats and spitcurls. One of the Midwestern women that went there, and lived the life of jeweled glamour and cafe bohemianism. Except I am still here. Except I am still here. I love pasty skin like yours, said the woman at Sephora.
At the Oriental Institute with my medievalist aunt who writes fantasy novels and my amateur-historian father and, well, John, they gather round and geek out over an exhibit dealing with the origins of writing and I wandered around, looked at the costume jewelery at the gift shop, the beautiful coral and blue beads behind glass cases. Antiquities make me sleepy. I liked the cosmetics vessels, that were filled in their time with eyemakeup as offerings to the goddess Inanna, who apparently liked to put a full face of makeup on before descending to the underworld. "She placed mascara which is called 'Let a man come, let him come' on her eyes." I don't think they sell that shade at Sephora, otherwise I would surely have bought it.
The day before I scheduled an appointment at the library within the Art Institute to look at old Surrealist books/journals, especially pertaining to Hans Bellmer. I have been thinking of Unica Zurn, his mistress who was a writer herself, and psychotically adored her novel Dark Spring, which I recently read and which I will write to in the book, Dark Spring which features a character committing suicide by jumping out a window (v. Septimus Smith) an act which Zurn copied a year later. I have been thinking about the woman as character, becoming a character/fetish object, and especially about Zurn and also Anna Kavan. I first became exposed to Zurn when I went to a panel at the Drawing Center in NY about the artist and biography (or was it about auto/biography? anyway, how they bleed), and they had these watercolors of Zurn's and also in the center of the room photographs Bellmer took of a tied-up Zurn, the ropes eating at her flesh. In the biography I read this morning while making my comp students do an in-class exercise, when Bellmer met her he was entranced by how much she looked like his fetish object, his dolls (he had made two dolls at that point, which he arranged in his grotesque and erotic distortions for his photographs, which were the real art.) So thinking about the girl as doll/character, especially in modernism, the woman becoming her own character, such as with Zurn, also with Anna Kavan's fragile blonde glass girl in her later dystopic works, how Anna Kavan dyed her hair blonde after the sanitorium, changed her name to Anna Kavan, her character in the novel Let Me Alone, and literally became her own muse/character. That act, that performance.
And then now thinking of Kavan so frail and fragile like glass and zonked out on heroin I think of this weekend's Style story in the NYT on Courtney Love, Courtney Love looking like a beat-up Anna Kavan, or like that Hans Bellmer second poupee, with the blonde frazzled wig and blue bow, in a way, I love the detail from the story how she enters her hotel room completely naked, the reporter in the room waiting to meet her, and she is on the arm of the painter ANSELM KIEFER, I love that, and she tugs on a sheer lace dress that still shows everything, cunt and nipples and all, this is a very Bellmer image actually, and Kiefer bends down the supplicant position to try to stuff her into a pair of black Givenchy heels, and she instead wants the reporter to help her.
Anyway, I went to the library, with my special collections husband in tow ("husband" on such an occasion, "my husband," this air of authority), to look at items from the Mary Reynolds Collection, Reynolds being a bookbinder who lived in Paris and associated with the Surrealists, was Duchamp's mistress. The tweedy rare books librarian didn't want me to touch the more fragile books, and was fairly skeptical how much of the vision beyond all of these extraordinarily bound books were Reynolds, or Duchamp's, he seemed to think that it was mostly Duchamp's vision, and he just told Reynolds what to do, of course he thinks that, I mean, of course he thinks that. That's what I took from it. John told me I was being simplistic in terms of what the librarian was saying, and that's probably true. It was a tone more than anything - a skepticism that she was the artist/creator, not just the follower/collaborator. I wrote notes in my notebook: I am not a scholar. I wrote also: I do not know French or German. Also leafing through old issues of Minotaure noticing the only female presence was he image/muse, gorgeous photos of Lee Miller and other Surrealist models, Bellmer's dolls. Something about that. There is something there. I think.
And later on we took a cab to the Outsider Art Fair at Navy Pier, hosted by the Intuit Gallery, the Chicago gallery that houses the Darger archives, that I studied so intensely for Book of Mutter, but this year it was very small and disappointing, except a major jewel/find. A series of sepia-toned photographs hung in Karl Hammer's booth, of a beautiful blonde woman arranged in mystic or pin-up poses. She looks like a cross of Ginger Rogers and Jean Harlow and Veronica Lake. The photographer is Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, a Milwaukee artist who took thousands and thousands of photographs of his wife Marie, as they lived on $300 a month in their little house in Milwaukee, there's now a retrospective of his at American Folk Art in NY. But this made me think too of this collaboration between married artists, she was an artist too, the muse/model, like a Lee Miller or a Kiki Montparnasse...I want this one for the cover of Green Girl. Looking very 40s pin-up, with eyes upward, wearing only a pearl necklace. Mysticism + musehood + materialism.