(This was the piece that motivated me to fire up this old flivver of a blog once more, I wrote it last month on my trip to Ottawa).
FH Varley, Vera, oil on canvas, 1931
I probably first saw her about 22 or 23 years ago and since that day she has always been my girl.
I think the reason I keep coming back (and I am sitting in front of her now and regarding her with that deep tenderness that comes with owning art or a woman in your heart) is that she has changes of moods. And she challenges me. She can look passionate. Bored. Questioning. Loving. Fierce. Tender.
Because she changes her mood to suit mine (or to antagonize it) I often wonder if she was a lover - I think she was a model but I know nothing about her - but as times goes wearily on away from her, I realize as I come back to her that she is Varley's Mona Lisa - a canvas full of clash and colour and strife and light and magic (so not the Mona Lisa) that remains a blank canvas (so the Mona Lisa). She is a lovely girl - or a woman - without an expressionon her face. Every expression on her face. Her mouth is closed, saying maybe out loud.
I have always suspected that I keep coming back to her, and keep her coming back to me, because I get a blank canvas on which I can project myself, and of course nothing loves me so much as myself. And there's nothing I love so much as me. OR maybe there is nothing so much I love as this painting, this sexy Euro-chick in a raincoat with a green face and blue eyebrows and an impossible neck and a lopsided face and a come-hither look full of challenge and disregard. I love her hair and lips. At least her hair is brown, I guess. Her face is green; it could easily have been orange.
IS that her raincoat? You'd think she was homeless. Are those her shoulders? She must be Russian. Ukrainian. Latvian. Belarussian. Czech. Vancouver. I love the sound of "Vancouver".
She is smiling. She is not smiling. She is smiling at me. She is smiling at Varley. She is smiling because she got fucked last night and you won't get to tonight. She's not actually smiling at all, but that's a minor detail. I do think it's morning - light green is for mornings. Dark green, leafy green, is afternoons. Morning is the tulips I saw today - the color of fake lime anything and wrinkling purple yellow.
This wicker chair is uncomfortable but it's what I can steal for the other Gallery rooms to sit and stare. She used to sit over there, in a smaller alcove room down the hall. Now she's got more traffic, and she gets to look at... (looks behind him, relieving his back from the wood bar of the chair) a Fortin picture of a hillside town and Lilias Torrance Newton's picture of herself. Lil is a pretty girl in a healthy, blonde, hiking-and-biking sort of way. She stares at my girl - positively stares right across the wide gallery floor. She doesn't like her. My girl isn't healthy, isn't blonde, has her blouse collar askew and wouldn't hike if you asked. She is unhealthy and thin and totally not my type and enchanting. Heart-lifting. So are a lot of women but because she is paint and cloth and dust and ashes and just woke up, my girl doesn't mind if you stare. I like to stare, probably always will.
Heart-lifting? Heart-eating seems more likely.
She's still the most beautiful thing have ever seen, first time. 22, 23 years and I remember her stealing the words from my windpipe. I wonder if she's had her coffee this morning. Her lipstick is fresh. I wonder if she waits for me. I wonder if it's raining. It must be raining.
Just another day for me and my girl.