There are many layers of reference in the title of this painting, a painting I made more than a year ago while still living in Austin. Now I’m in Denver, a month in, and it hangs on a new wall, with new light.
At the time I was writing titles for the body of work this painting came out of, I was finding images to share with the students of a figure drawing class I was teaching. There is a drawing I love by Larry Rivers of Frank O’Hara standing naked in his boots. It’s a study, I presume, for the famous painting that graces one of the poet’s book covers and also hung at the MOMA while O’Hara was a curator there.
While looking at this drawing I was reminded of a time when I posed nude in boots in the snow by polaroid during my first stint as a resident of Colorado. I was so moved by the poetic quality of the falling snow that I needed, not just wanted, but needed to be naked in it. (Much later I wrote a poem about this experience and how I couldn’t live with the photographs whole, so I cut them up and moved them around with me in an envelope. Someday perhaps the poem will surface. The cut up polaroids surfaced while packing to move here, and although it was only a month ago, I honestly can’t remember if I kept them or not.)
Something about the color of the silver paint and the snowy earthy canvas and the shapes that they create together as they spill off the edge, reminded me of that night I stood naked in my boots in the snow. Funny how the body sometimes finds her way into the work by way of title.
By one of those brilliant moments of alignment, around the same time, maybe even the same day that I was researching images for my drawing class, I came across an interview by Jeremy Sigler with the poet, Eileen Myles. In the interview they talk about the painting of O’Hara and the idea of the poet standing naked in his or her boots. Sigler tenderly proposes that the poet naked in his or her boots is the poet “without anything.” He believes it is an image that says “that all a poet really needs for survival is a pair of boots.”
At the time I made this painting, survival was the only thing on my mind, really, and the interview by Sigler with Myles, and the path of poetry and words it lead me down, knocked me over the head and woke me up. For that, I am very thankful.
I am now just realizing that at the time I started to taper off with dime and honey (consciously, I thought, for the summer, and then unintentionally, for the rest of the year, and now as I wrap it up here in this note), was at the same time that I started to allow myself to imagine migrating once again to this expansive land of rock and sky. Now that I am home, I again stand naked in my boots. This time, for real.