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I look for, and find, James McNeill Whistler’s painting “Symphony in White, No. 1” (aka “The White Girl”). It portrays a thin woman with long curly auburn hair, in a white dress (a well-known convention) standing against the backdrop of a white curtain.
At the time, the painting attracted interest because of the use of white on white. But it interests me because the model, Joanna Hiffernan, Whistler’s mistress, is standing on a carpet made of a wolf’s skin. The wolf’s gaping mouth says something to me. She is painted in a way that makes it clear that she is more.
There is something more in her. I check: Hiffernan was also the model for Gustave Courbet, who painted the most daring close-up of a woman, “The Origin of the World” (1866), about which rivers of words have been spilled.
I look at her and note that the noise I live in has ceased. He against whom I counterpoised myself no longer exists for me. I stopped his existence, because with an effort I detached myself from his gaze.
At first by planning, and in the end without choice, in tears. New canvas.