Monday, June 10, 2013



This is The Blue Unconscious by Jackson Pollock.  Or at least it would be if you can open it.  I slept under it my entire high school and college career while on vacation in New York with my parents.  My stepfather, Saul Schwamm, affectionately known as Puggy because of the thrust of his lower jaw, uncorrected by orthodontia (he had been a poor boy) in tandem with a pugnacious nature, had gone to Brooklyn College with Clement Greenberg, later to become the austere and combative art critic.  He had found Pollock, and as Puggy was the only one with any money-- he had become an investment banker, and together with his brother, Harvey, made a killing as the country was dying and became one of the hated men on the Street, un-softened by the fact that they were Jews-- and Greenberg took him to see Jackson, as I imagine he was able to call him, being Clement Greenberg, and told Puggy he needed money, so Puggy bought the painting for, I believe, two or maybe five thousand dollars. (I think it just sold for a hundred and twenty million, or something like that.)
    Anyway, my mother later put it in the library of their then Park Avenue apartment, and as it was 8x12, turned it on its side, saying "What difference does it make?"  If you can open it, which I hope you can, you will see what a miracle it is and was that I am only as scattered and (occasionally only, as of late) nutty as I am.  Imagine sleeping under that during your whole protracted adolescence.
    Seeing it now, in the detail that is miraculously if annoying available about everything on the Internet, I am not only surprised at my seeming tranquility, long sought for and preternaturally achieved in these past tumultuous days, many of their hours spent in the Apple store or on the phone trying to correct what is magically not my error but theirs without hating or trying to kill anybody, including myself, I am joyful that everything can survive, including the human spirit and the Art, as such it has turned out to be, of Jackson Pollock.
    When I had my triumph in Junior Show at Bryn Mawr, having written the songs and had the comedy lead and my then much admired Haverford crush, George Segal leap onto the stage with the finale and kiss both my hands, and the president of the college come up to my mother and say "This is most exciting theatrical event at Bryn Mawr since Katherine Hepburn was an undergraduate here," swelling my soul to its max, even though it was followed by my mother gazing after her saying "Who was that?" and to my answer, "the president," respond: "I thought it was the washerwoman." 
     Freddie Sadoff, then a very active member of the Actor's Studio, which at the time was ALL, told me I had to come to NY and work at the studio.  So I passed Miss McBride in the Cloisters(we had them, of course, at Bryn Mawr," and said "MIss McBride: Shakespeare and Chaucer have given me all they can, and the theater needs me, so I'm leaving Bryn Mawr," to which she responded in her High Academic drawl, "Well, Gwen... try to be back for exams."
    When I got home I told my mother I was quitting college.  She shrieked; "They told me this would happen in the Beauty Parlor!" and locked me in my room.  I lay there sobbing and reading Tennyson.  When Puggy, with whom I was not yet really allied, came home I said "It's all right.  I was quitting because I had no reason to stay.  Now I do. You won't let me quit."  And he very quietly said, "No, Gwennie-- that's not your reason; there's your reason."  And he pointed to the painting on the wall.
"All art will show itself in its time.  Don't rush the calendar."
    So I certainly haven't.  But I'm still alive.  We'll see.