Helga and Nectarines

8 Sep

I see people walking down Bellevue, dressed for work. On sunnier, warmer days, back in August, I saw them bounding down the avenue to catch their bus. Today, cool and gray, mist hiding the mountains and the water, they walk rather grimly, knowing that their idyllic blackberry summer is coming to an end. No more sea kayaking. No more hiking in the Olympic peninsula or on Mt. Rainier (yesterday, Labor Day: saw Imogen Cunningham’s nude husband wandering in the milky sunshine atop the latter at the Seattle Art Museum). We’re getting used to venturing to the farmers’ market with plastic hoods against plops of rain. M. found a vendor with the most real-tasting nectarines we’ve ever had: more than flavorful, juicy, aromatic. Never have I eaten such a joyous fruit. The vendor, too, is a wonder. Tell her you want some fruit to eat today and some fruit to eat in a couple of days, and she dandles her fingers over the rows of nectarines, sniffs each fruit at the stem and tells you (to the minute!) when the fruit will be most delicious.

But I mentioned SAM. What else did we see? Cunningham was great: innards of flowers with enormous precision; a self-portrait reflected in a Danish lingerie shop; a fun house portrait of loopyily stretched grand kids; gap-toothed smiling children staring voraciously into her lens, eager to be captured on film.

And Wyeth. Only seven paintings, but by far the most crowded exhibit. Like Cunningham’s nudes, there’s a sort of milky luminance to his Helga, but less dreamy than Cunningham, sort of hyper real. As if he sees her more clearly than one can ever see anything. If that makes sense. He wrote that a really good painting will be mostly memory. I like that idea.

The most heavily advertised temporary exhibit was Target Practice: Art Under Attack, 1949-1978, an international survey of post World War II art trying to subvert, to do something else. A 1960s French artist shot paint at her canvas with a rifle; an Italian artist and a Japanese artist began stabbing their canvases around the same time period without knowing about each other; canvases were taken off their stretchers and crumpled into forms; canvases were gouged, drawn and quartered; latex paints were poured on the floor; paintings without paint or a canvas were contemplated, concocted. My favorite piece (though I’ll admit this was my least favorite exhibit) was Andy Warhol’s oxidized squares, at the end of the exhibit. He and his assistants urinated onto copper-based paint, allowing an oxidization process to create a rather lovely dappled patina. For all the violence and aggression of the show, it was a rather pretty piece.

2 Responses to “Helga and Nectarines”


  1. Degenerate Art « Anca Szilagyi - June 19, 2011

    […] The actual costume on display immediately reminded me of Nick Cave’s sound suits, which I first encountered in the SAM’s permanent collection when M. and I moved here two years ago. There’s […]

  2. Kingfishers, herons, news | Anca Szilagyi - September 9, 2016

    […] forthcoming–a collage essay about a fruit (in the meantime here’s a post I wrote about nectarines), a short story inspired by my recent trip to the Netherlands, and two short-short fairy tales. […]

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