American Gothic

 

I.
Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton was naturally stunned
by the commercial success of his pupil Jackson Pollock, whose No. 5, 1948,
a “nest-like drizzle of yellows and browns on fiberboard,” sold for 140 million,
becoming the most expensive painting in the history of modern art,
and this, after the (near) seduction of his one wife Rita!
Pollock: “She was the ideal woman.”

II.
Childhood:  hunger.  His mother Stella, strangely inexpressive:
“She sat like statuary the entire evening and didn’t move once.”
Romantic History:  his approach with Lee Krasner, after
formal introductions at a dinner party: “Do you like to fuck?”

III.
Mentor: “He couldn’t absorb words and he couldn’t use them,
but he picked up on the subtlest nonverbal signals.
Protégé: “Damnit, Tom, damnit! You know what I mean!”

IV.
Verbs used to describe Pollock’s process of applying paint:
fling, dribble, hurl, and dump
(drip having become the name of the style).

V.
Art Historian: “None of Pollock’s paintings are true abstractions. They are
fundamentally figurative paintings, albeit in a way that’s hard to read.”

VI.
Reporter:  “So, Jack, how does it feel to be considered the father
of Abstract Expressionism?”
Pollock:  “What the hell is Abstract Expressionism?”

VII.
1943:  Compositional space of Mural: a barn. Technique:  two
days spent crawling over a thirty-foot canvas, flinging cigarette
ash, paint and glue.  (Bio. note:  He wrote Jackson Pollock across
the canvas, then hung the imagery from the letters of his name.)

 

 

 

 

About Virginia Konchan

A doctoral candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Virginia Konchan’s criticism has appeared widely, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2011, Boston Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Believer, The New Republic, Notre Dame Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Jacket, and Poet Lore, among other places.

To read more about Virginia Konchan and her work, you can visit her website.

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“American Gothic” © Virginia Konchan. This poem originally appeared in the Believer and was reprinted with permission by the author.