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Posts Tagged ‘sitting’

Together Young

October 21, 2016 | by

Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago. Here, Jen George revisits Balthus’s painting Thérèse Dreaming.

Balthus, Thérèse Dreaming, 1938, oil on canvas, 59 x 51''.

Balthus, Thérèse Dreaming, 1938, oil on canvas, 59" x 51''.

In Balthus’s painting Thérèse Dreaming, a young girl sits, face turned to profile, arms up, elbows out, hands rested on her head, legs a little open, underwear visible—a sort of clothed, daydreaming, preteen odalisque. She is at home in her youth. She has the countenance of someone who knows other things are coming, eventually. Maybe she knows what, though she probably doesn’t. Not like she needs to—experience comes from being alone in the world, and with time. When asked about the provocative poses of preadolescent girls in his work, Balthus said, “It is how they (young girls) sit.”

When I first saw Thérèse Dreaming, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I stopped to sit. Maybe I’d been tired. I had been traveling cross-country with a counterfeit sixty-day Greyhound Ameripass—it allowed for unlimited bus travel within the U.S—and I had been smoking heavily and maybe not sleeping at all. I couldn’t stay all day in the Brooklyn apartment where I’d been sleeping, so most days I went to the Met, looking at art, spacing out, reading, sometimes staring at blank walls. It was inviting, the room and the painting. Thérèse’s skirt was like mine. My hair was longer. I liked her shoes. I liked that she was both in this room and not; she was dreaming, but I couldn’t see where she’d gone. Read More »

Sitting Up

August 23, 2016 | by

A brief history of chairs.

Still from Lawrence of Arabia.

Still from Lawrence of Arabia.

There is a pivotal early scene in David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia in which T. E. Lawrence and his superior, Colonel Brighton, visit the desert encampment of Prince Faisal, a leader of the Arab Revolt. The royal tent is spartan yet luxurious, patterned woven cloths hang from the low ceiling, a large brass samovar gleams in the candlelight, the ground is covered with a rich carpet. There is no furniture; the men sit on the carpet. Brighton, in his tailored uniform, polished Sam Browne belt, and riding boots, looks distinctly ill at ease with his legs awkwardly stretched out in front of him. Lawrence, a lieutenant and less formally dressed, appears slightly more comfortable, with his legs folded to one side. The prince, attired in a dark robe and a white ghutrah, reclines on a pile of sheepskins, while his colleague Sherif Ali leans casually against a tent pole. The various postures cinematically underline a central point: the relaxed Bedouins are at home in this place—the desert—while the stiff English colonel is an interloper. Lawrence is somewhere in between.

The world is divided into people who sit on the floor and those who sit on chairs. In a classic study of human posture around the world, the anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes identified no fewer than a hundred common sitting positions. “At least a fourth of mankind habitually takes the load off its feet by crouching in a deep squat, both at rest and at work,” he observed. Deep squatting is favored by people in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but sitting cross-legged on the floor is almost as common. Many South Asians cook, dine, work, and relax in that position. Certain Native American tribes in the Southwest, as well as Melanesians, customarily sit on the floor with legs stretched straight out or crossed at the ankles. Sitting with the legs folded to one side—Lawrence’s position above—is described by Hewes as a predominantly female posture in many tribal societies. Read More »

Sit on It

April 2, 2014 | by

The art of sploshing. (Contains mildly NSFW photography.)

1 ©mHBurgess2014

© Martha Burgess

The Friday night before last, on an otherwise abandoned block in Gowanus, I spied a young man and woman; she was carefully carrying a plastic bag that contained a boxy package. “Are you here for the sploshing?” I asked. They were. I followed them to their destination—Trestle Gallery, a nonprofit art organization affiliated with Brooklyn Art Space, on the first floor of a building that once housed factories. Was it their first time sploshing? I wanted to know. It was. And me, would I be participating, too? No. I was only there to watch.

I’d learned of artist Martha Burgess’s “Cake Sit” a few months prior, over dinner at Omen, the serene, Zen-like Japanese restaurant on Thompson Street. The novelist Monique Truong, whose Book of Salt I often cite as one of the best examples of food writing, turned to me and asked, with wide-eyed excitement, “Have you heard of cake splooshing?!”

Although I spend an inordinate amount of time writing, thinking, and talking about cake, to say nothing of eating it, this splooshing, as Truong called it, was new to me. People, she explained, sit on cakes and get off on it. Read More »