national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2011

Standing in a Picasso Exhibit in 3 Parts

Hannah Gill  • 
University of Georgia

Part 1: Picasso reveals.

Cast:
Genevieve: slender spectator with a silver scarf
Picasso: invisible artist with visible visions and thoughts
Chorus: art historians in earphones adjacent to Genevieve’s ears

Genevieve enters the exhibit with high hopes of illuminated emotions like rain that brightens a city between overcast skies and earth. She meets Picasso in a quote painted in acrylic above seductive oils. Genevieve shields her heart with one hand to contain her admiration of said Picasso.

P: Art is not chaste.[i]
G: You were not chaste.
P: A very simple fact. I loved women.
G: Their bodies they gave you? Their forms defined in charcoal? [hissing]
P: I painted what I saw.
G: Indefinite intimacy.
P: I could only paint reality.
G: A body unfolded and arranged in color. Intimacy is surreal.
P: Intimacy redefines reality. A kiss bestows a realm of new dimension to opened eyes.

G: Can art be chaste?
P: Not in Paris.
G: Can art be chaste?
P: Not when discovering.
G: Can art be chaste?
P: Not with sharp angles.
G: Can art be chaste?
P: No.

G: Can love be safe?
P: Never.

C: Humans falling on humans.
The muse more a solace than the lover.
Artists finagle intimacy to produce invidious statements.

Part 2: Dora Maar suffers a seated position.

Cast:
Genevieve: lonely onlooker with love to learn
Dora Maar: psychoanalyzed and painted by Picasso
Chorus: French experts recorded for exhibits in handsets

Genevieve studies Dora Maar Seated and weeps as Dora wept, with secrecy, a bursting tree that offers one acidic sapdrop at a time. 

C: Why not paint profile and portrait’s sadness,
it is how he saw her (kissing a muse).
Dora takes pictures and makes love
but her womb creates like water is dry.

D: He had a bullfighter’s body
and an absent way of leaving.

G: Did he love you?
D: The thing about an artist is he only loves what inspires him.
G: I can see why you would cry.
C: Infatuation sinks like golden coins,
ineluctable casualties of war on waves.
D: If home is happy, I am a nomad without a camel.
If home is family, I am a nomad.
If home continues, I am without a camel.

Part 3: Le Baiser with final lover.

Cast:
Genevieve: girl who stands in front of Le Baiser with jutted hip
Jacqueline: second wife of silver-haired Picasso
Chorus: distant voices who daringly educate Eve

Genevieve faces Picasso’s revelation of kissing Jacqueline. Jacqueline endures in the arms of someone who did not let go. Above the painting reads, “No pleasure without the taste of ashes.”

G: He married you last. You were his last pleasure.
J: There comes a time when every man realizes he wants to be loved.
G: What did you see when you kissed him?
J: I didn’t. I always closed my eyes.
G: Picasso thought otherwise. Oils on canvas.
J: He watched the rain fall on a cloudless night. His coarse hair.
G: He often saw you naked.
J: To admire grace tremendously.
G: Is it fair he knew your body more than you did?
J: The weight of his adoration brought me to kneeling.
G: Would that pleasure be so sweet.
J: Yet always the black taste. No ashes so white and pure without the fire that made them and the bitterness that hasn’t left them yet. I hope you find fire, Genevieve.

C: To finish a painting or linger in a kiss?
If every lover’s morning were a possibility to leave undone a work of art?


[i] “Art is never chaste,” Pablo Picasso.