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Life Imitates Art

June 9, 2010

Alex Katz, The Black Dress, 1960 Oil on linen 72 1/4” x 84 1/2”

For those of you who know me and for those who are getting to know me via these TruffleHunting missives, my passion for art is, shall we shall, all consuming. And consuming is a particularly apt word for I consume art at an alarming rate. A nice little side note here is that it takes no, or little money to be an art consumer. I consume with my eyes. Galleries are free to go to; museums offer huge rewards for moderate financial investment; and seeking out and witnessing public art offers its own set of rewards for the price of gas or a mass transit fare ticket. Art, in its myriad of forms, has been a transformative experience in my life.

I am first and foremost a fan of looking, a fan of art, a life long student of visual expression and insatiably curious about how people see. Which brings me to an intriguing inversion of experience in my daily life. There have been many times in the last ten years that life has reminded me of art. Such is my encyclopedic retention of visual art experience that often my primary source material for recognition of a world around me has been interpretive and not factual.

Alex Katz, Blue Umbrella #2, 1972 Oil on Canvas 96.1” x 144.1”

Perhaps the best example that I have to offer in this regard is an instance in a hamburger joint on West Broadway and Broome Street in NYC’s SoHo. I was sitting having a beer facing the entrance. The front door opens and in walks a woman in her mid 60’s, gray hair and statuesque and rather elegant and beautiful. In a blinding flash I recognize her and almost shout out her name “Ada!” I stopped myself, flushed with the recognition that I had never met her but I knew her features, the bridge of her nose and her almond shaped eyes. Seconds after she entered, she was followed by her husband, painter Alex Katz. I know Ada from having seen, consumed dozens of paintings, prints and drawings that Alex Katz has painted of his wife over a remarkable 50+ year career. I’ve seen her at cocktail parties, I’ve seen her at the beach, I seen her with a scarf around her head, I’ve seen her under the delicate arcing curves of an umbrella.

Alex Katz, Black Scarf, 1995 Oil on canvas 72” x 48”

I marvel over this moment still today. For to see her in the flesh indexed a catalogue of experiences that I accrued over 25 years of seeing art. Life reminded me of art rather than the other way around. I’ll continue to salt and pepper these posts with a few more examples of these inversions but suffice it say they still send me into reverie.

I’d be delighted and curious to hear from anyone with similar experiences.

The Jewish Museum Exhibition circa 2007

Nice video of Alex Katz chatting about his art.

Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, June 9th, 2010

  1. Did you say anything to her???

    • I was a total geek and didn’t say anything. The impact of (non) encounter really only developed over time. I did go up to him on the street several years later and tell him what a fan of his art I was and that his painting meant the world to me. Reminds me that I should try to get this post to him in some form.
      Cheers, MMM

  2. Lovely! A delectable truffle.

    • Thanks, the way that I’m shaving these Truffles the price per pound should rise, n’est pas? Cheers, MMM

  3. Love this ‘art imitates life’ story! can’t say I’ve ever had it happen with any art…
    but I did have an experience last year: after watching a whole season of a TV show that co-starred Adam Arkin, I saw Adam on my way out of a sushi retaurant. At the sight of him, I started towards him as if seeing a long-lost friend, all smiles and ready to say “hi, how ARE you??”, but was lucky enough to snap out of it just short of making a silly fool of myself. He did, however, catch enough of my aborted faux pas to smile at me as I passed him.

    • I love this anecdote and it speaks volumes to the personal investment of pop culture and the importance of narrative to all our lives. Adam Arkin is totally groovy. I remember him for his hysterical turn as Adam on Northern Exposure many moons ago. Thanks for the comment.

  4. What a fantastic story. I came across your blog searching for the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. Your posts are informative and engaging. I look forward to reading more.

    • Many Thanks CultureShockArt! I dialed you in as well and liked your observations about the Gorky exhibition, especially the thoughtful and patient reading of the two portraits with mom. Taking the time to let paintings tell their stories is something few people do and to have you out there demonstrating the riches such patience can engender is extremely valuable. I too look forward to reading you in the future.

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