Wayne Koestenbaum: The Desire to Write

August 22, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Essay

Pablo Picasso, _Woman with Bangs_, 1902

The Desire to Write about Woman with Bangs

The desire to write about Picasso’s Woman with Bangs may echo my desire to lift this depicted woman from her depression. (A painting can’t be depressed; this woman is only an effect of blue oil paint applied in 1902.) Because both the background and the woman are shades of complicated blue, the totality of blueness suffusing this scene allows no exit — no chance for a joke, a candy bar, a trip to the laundromat. My desire to write about the blue woman’s gloom (and thereby to reinforce it) is a diseased enterprise; I can’t alleviate an imagined woman’s desperation by writing complicated sentences, or by presuming that the color blue — when it swamps background and foreground, without distinguishing between woman and wall — is a logical dumping-ground for my hothouse empathy. This woman’s heavy-lidded eyes imply a roof of bone, a skull I’m eager, when I finish this paragraph, to ignore, so I can pay attention to the yellow-eyed beans boiling on my stove.

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