that guy had a lot of time on his hands

in abstract expressionism class we’ve been talking about jackson pollock.  my professor is something of a pollock fanatic, and the other day he told a story about the summer he spent doing research at the pollock-krasner house.  on his first night at the house, after the staff had left for the day, he took his bags upstairs to one of the bedrooms and begin to unpack.  opening a dresser drawer to put some of his things in, he looked inside and found a few of lee krasner’s personal effects.  there were prescription bottles, an eyeglass case, some other things.  he quickly closed the drawer and sat down on the bed, realizing that this was their bedroom, their dresser, their mattress.  this was where they’d slept.

we’ve talked about both jackson pollock and lee krasner in our class, and what i’ve been most interested in is not pollock himself or his art.  not the gallons of paint he used or the things he applied it with or the dried-up redyellowblackgreen on the floor of his studio.  not his drinking, not his temperament his affair his death in a car accident.

no, i’m interested in her.  i’m interested in who she was underneath mrs. jackson pollock, underneath the woman who was in some ways willing to put aside parts of herself for someone else.  i’m interested in what it was like to be married to a man more successful than you at your own life’s work.  most specifically, i’m interested in how she might have felt after he died, as she was managing his estate.  i picture her going back to the house where they lived, walking up the stairs and sitting down on that bed to sift through his personal things, deciding what to keep and what to give away.  i picture her in the studio, looking at his paintings, making piles of work to sell work not to sell.  i imagine she must have thought about the car accident, about his mistress in the seat next to him.  was she sad?  wistful?  angry?  relieved?

but no matter how hard i try, i can’t come up with a way to write that.  i think a lot about her lately, about what she must have been like and how she dealt with things, but i can’t seem to get inside her head.  tis a project i fear may be bigger than my ability.

my dad told me once about some show he saw when he was a kid, about a guy who put one coat of paint on a two-by-four every day for fifteen years. after all that, my dad said, the paint was only two inches thick.  did he use different colors? i asked.  i don’t know, he said.  i guess he would just finish one can of paint and open up another one.