Wayne Koestenbaum: The Desire to Write

August 22, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Essay

As we enter the last few weeks of our landmark exhibition The Steins Collect, Open Space is pleased to present a special two-part feature from essayist, cultural critic, and poet Wayne Koestenbaum. For this year’s Phyllis Wattis Distinguished Lecture, held on June 2, SFMOMA commissioned Wayne to write and perform a new work related to the exhibition. His topic: painting and writing. The result: “The Desire to Write.” Enjoy. (Part two, next Monday.)


Henri Matisse, _Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra_, 1907; The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland; © 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Desire to Write about Blue Nude

Writing, alas, is never nude. Grammar clothes me with adjectives, prepositional phrases, and dependent clauses — a costume I didn’t choose, a costume that clashes with my native inclinations, which respect no division between the body’s secret holes and that bleak fringe of futurity where Matisse, in _Blue Nude_, 1907, might have wished to point, if paintings can point, if paintings can embody a wish to plunge forward.


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