December 8th: Art: What was the most moving piece of art that you saw/experienced this year? This could mean a painting or a sculpture, or a performance you took in, or even a book that you read – tell us about the kind of art you encountered, and the way that it moved you.
It is silly, and strange, and all the same.
And I should’ve been moved by something greater — or, at least, grander. Because I saw Kusama at the Tate Modern (though I missed her work at the Whitney, which was stupid, because I love her more than anything and the Whitney is mere blocks from my apartment); saw Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern too. Saw Hockney at the Royal Academy, whose work I love, even if people say his work is common and accessible and some would even say lowbrow in the way that I insultingly call people overhead.
I saw, most recently, the Wildlife Photography at the Natural History Museum in London.
I’ve seen beautiful things; I love beautiful things. I’ve been known to read the Psalms and the Oxford Book of English Verse in the bath, like some quirky maiden aunt, or peculiar relic from another time period.
I’ve seen profound things; small things; been to gallery openings and book signings and heard authors reading their heartbreaking and inspiring tales. I’ve listened to gorgeous spoken-word poetry and I’ve been to concerts of big-and-small-name artists who have all taken my breath away.
But the piece of art that I’ve seen this year — one that I bought last year; one that moves me; that gets me; that pulls my heartstrings; that changes and breaks my heart is this:
It’s a print from an artist named Angie Pickman, whose work consists mostly of paper-cutout art. The print above was fastened to my front door for a dinner for Winesday’s second birthday party.
The piece, presumably, makes reference to Elton John’s “Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters,” which, over the years became Winesday’s unofficial theme song.
Today is my eighth annual Ugly Sweater party. I have been hosting it since I was a New Yorker; since I was a newlywed; since before I knew the streets from the avenues. I hosted the party first from my apartment downtown, with my then-husband. I hosted it as a new divorcee — with trepidation. It was the one thing I “got” in my divorce.
I curl my hair, and I put on pair of outlandish leggings and bright red lipstick, and serve silly, (literally) cheesy hors d’oeuvres (some involving Velveeta), and we laugh and talk all night. Some years, it’s tame. Other years, the party has gone until 9:00am. My outfit has been favourably compared to those of Peg Bundy, and Sharon Stone in “Casino.”
But tonight, for the first time in years, I will have in attendance friends with whom I’ve fallen out; friends with whom I’ve recently had conflicts of personality. And I’ve been on travel for weeks and weeks, and so while I am generally healthy, I am still exhausted.
The print of the Angie Pickman cutout hangs above my desk in my office alcove in my apartment, which is where it will be tonight when the guests arrive. And while, in years past, I’ve obsessed about each detail — from the decor, to the party favours, to the foods to be served, this year, I’m just too tired for All That. People I love will be under one roof for once, and that’s all I can ask for.
People will eat, and people will drink, and it’s likely to be a quiet night, and all of that will be okay because this is transition, and change, and rebuilding and regrouping, and I suppose that’s what the picture and the song have always meant to me.
I’m a lucky woman, albeit a very, very tired one. And even if my poker face doesn’t always register my good fortune on the surface, my heart is full with these blessings of mine.
In other words, as the song goes, I thank the Lord for the people I have found.
And the print reminds me of that. Every day.