|(this is a full view done in a dim light; it is almost impossible to photograph due to the reflections)|
Word of James Merrill's death reached me shortly after I had returned to North Carolina.
I was startled by this--I had just received a postcard from him, which now seemed a message
from further afar.
This was at time--the first decade of the AIDS crisis-- in which the membrane between
the living and the dead seemed stretched thin.. I had grown haunted by mirrors and the sense of unseen presences there. No doubt this was prompted by Cocteau, whose Orpheus falls through a mirror, and Alice in Through the Looking-glass, which was my sacred book in the fourth-grade. JM also had a hand in this, I am sure, as he and his lover, David Jackson,place a mirror on a chair during one of their sessions with their familiar spirit, Ephraim,which appears in "The Book Of Ephraim",in order that their familiar spirit "see" them from the other side. (The results might be described as an erotic necromancy).
making superstitions.In JM"s case, this was vastly complicated by The Changing Light at Sandover,
his "ouija board trilogy", which is an intricate narrative and exegesis on the subject of the life after
death, as reported from years of seances at the Ouija board .I was quite enchanted with it before
my friends began dying, but these actualities greatly altered my perspective.
Never-the-less, it was a great privilege to have known Merrill, and this painting--on a large
plateglass window--was my act of mourning him. The process was suggested by a poem of
his called "Some Negatives: X at the Chateau", which begins:
"Where skies are thunderous, by a cypress walk
Copied in snow, I have you:or
Sitting by the water-jet that here
Is jet. You could be an Ethiop with hair
Powdered white as chalk
Instead of simple diffidence on her tour
Of monuments. Yet these first
Images of images I shall keep,
Once they have testified, immersed
In a mild lethe, to what you really are..."
This is why the painting was done in black::it is a negative, or the reverse-side, and the
process of painting glass black is paradoxically to turn it into a form of a mirror. I
imagined a great fete in heaven on JM"s arrival--which, alas, I could only see in
negative. Because it was a window, I began first by spray painting a flat black
enamel through lace on both sides to create a kind of curtain. Then I painted a
variation in glossy black enamel, and then another variation in white enamel,
and another variation in silver. Finally, I used a deep ultramarine blue to play off the
"negative"--my blue way back to the living.
|a detail of the center|