MOMA, 1992 

by on March 2, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Man with a Guitar, by Georges Braque (France), 1911-12" by Tyler Malone

The old man, Frankie’s father, used to like to sketch Mary, but she thought of herself as one of Braque’s collages, a still life made of wallpaper, newspaper, scraps of drawings, all at odd angles. But she wasn’t a still life. She was in motion – like this painting in front of her. George Braque’s Man with a Guitar. This painting that she might write about for Art History class. This painting that she was studying at MOMA.

She didn’t think that Frankie’s father was much of an artist. He drew her as a stringy-haired blob on white paper. She was in motion, whether she was playing guitar with her ex-friend Frankie in the subway or kickboxing to the Clash in her dorm room or back home riding her pony, Mamacita. You couldn’t figure out who she was. Just like in Braque’s painting, only the nail in the far corner was discernible. The rest was a blur on paper the color of a smoker’s lungs. But Braque was a real artist. You could stand in front of his painting for hours but never see everything.

But as her friend Deb said, men can’t see women for who they are. Maybe even Braque couldn’t. He lived so long ago, died in 1963, ten years before she was born. And, as the Art History professor told the class, male artists have always objectified women. No wonder Frankie’s dad couldn’t see her for who she was. He was a grown man when Braque died. No wonder Frankie had called her a dumb whore for letting his father sketch her. He told her that all artists hit on their models. Eventually.

Mary yawned, then stretched. She walked away from the painting to look for Deb. A more diligent student, her friend was taking notes on some other painting by Picasso. Deb didn’t trust her feelings or her memory. She also took notes in class. No wonder that she could tell when men didn’t see women.

Mary decided that she would write about Man with a Guitar. She stomped her boots, shook her dark, glossy hair, let her purse swing. She wanted to go. It was a long bus ride back to campus and her typewriter. Still Deb was smiling to herself, scribbling in her tiny notebook, the one she always carried in her purse. Mary could not catch her friend’s eye. She thought about running out of MOMA, the way she ran out of Frankie’s dad’s brownstone last time, sprinting as if anyone would really chase after her all the way to the bus stop. The old man smoked too much anyway. And Frankie had gone to live with his mother, somewhere on Long Island, somewhere with an unlisted number.

Mary figured she’d look around for a pay phone, make a phone call, then come back. Deb would still be taking notes. They could ride back to campus, maybe even have an early dinner together. No, she’d start work on this paper. This time she’d write it right away. She unzipped her purse and felt for a loose quarter. She wanted to tell someone about the painting she had just seen. Deb was busy. Mary wished that this someone could be Frankie, the friend she had already lost.

editors note:

Art is a reminder that life is here, but also was here. ~ Tyler Malone

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