jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Art School Confidential
I did my short stint in art school, and who didn’t? It was a decent school, founded by the American magical realist Alexander Hogue, but smothered by being in Oklahoma and its ability to draw professors and serious art students.

There were only two students in the school that I would consider had any artistic integrity. Me, of course, and one boy. The boy came from a family he loved and was so well loved by, that he still lived at home, despite abundant cheap housing. His father headed the most prosperous graphic design firm in town, and so the boy’s studies of art were clearly well supported, not only by money but by approval. He had had as many art classes as he wanted before college and it showed, what he could produce technically, with such ease, jaw-dropped me. His works were competent, sophisticated, and I always looked forward to and was envious of what he would show at crits.

In contrast, I had been discharged from my family years prior. I taught myself to draw. I worked nights to scrape together my existence, falling asleep in the hallways with such profundity and clear under-nourishment my professors suspected a drug addiction. There was no support for me, even the professors who talked about my presumed heroin habit did nothing. Crits were a hell of boredom, no praise or even substantive comments for me, uninspired student works punctuated only by the boy’s work, the boy who, in his secure and sucessful orbit, doesn't have to be interested in me and my work.

The annual student art show was selected by an imported, important New York curator. And yes, it had all the breathless expectation you could imagine. The night of the opening they unveil, and everyone finds out at one time what works were chosen, and you dash from wall to wall, looking for who got, who didn’t get, which of yours, or more likely, none of yours. The works are chosen blindly, so there is no favoritism, only the curator’s judgement and I am stunned to discover that fully 10% of the entire show is mine.

I could just about piss myself at the awards ceremony that night. I am finally going to get notice, an accolade for my portfolio, some much needed cash. I am breathless as they make the announcements. One after another, by Department fiat, they go to others, and I understand that is politics, payback, pettiness. Finally, the one, Outstanding Whatever, made solely by the Chairman and surely I will receive it, having more pieces in the show than any other student, including the MFA candidates.

It goes to the boy.

I used to have dreams that he deigned to make love to me. But before he would give me the admittance to his world, the intimacy I desired more than the act of love, I had to submit to being examined closely, every inch of my skin under a magnifying glass, looking for flaws in a humiliating drawn out process, the imminent specter of rejection hanging close throughout, and possibly even pre-determined, this exercise being gleeful sadism on his part, simply because he can and my desire is so overweening, inappropriate, vulnerable.

Today, I cannot even remember his name or even his face.


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