The Single Girl’s Guide to Art


From the Archive

A Girl With A Dead Canary, Jean Baptiste Greuze, 1765.

Jean Baptiste Greuze, A Girl With A Dead Canary, 1765.

Shannon Borg’s poem “The Single Girl’s Guide to Art” appeared in our Spring 2002 issue. Her latest collection is Corset


On her dress she wears her body. —Blaise Cendrars

Black, black, all black! The essence
of all that is deep, and you have
to have it! We all know the right
tools are essential to any undertaking.
Composed in just the right manner,
a little black dress can take you
anywhere. Nothing to distract the eye
from the body, in pursuit of your true art
lover. And next to you, honey, the tourists
will look like huge colorfields. The latest
lipstick is Venus, the latest shade
for nails is Mars. Perfect for museum day!



A woman must continually watch herself. —John Berger

In line, position yourself near the possible
object of your desire. Pay with plastic,
sign with a flourish. Think of your life
as one well-wrought performance piece,
and be sure to get the little pin; position it
above your breast, on your best side. Always
think ahead! You’ll thank me later—a fabulous
conversation piece, that pin, later at the café.
Remember, your entry into his frame must be
oblique, cause tension. Move to the corner
of his eye, but don’t linger, if he is to engage you
in what we will call the gaze.



I paint with my prick. —Auguste Renoir

What do you desire in a man? Money,
Looks or (heaven forbid) Personality?
Determine your sequence in this manner.
For instance, the Renaissance is all good
and fine, but resist the tempting male
nude. We all know the perfect man
is a statue. But what straight man
can truly appreciate this? And stay away
from canvases of war. Narrative is the death
of art; it just goes on and on, and you,
my dear, are not even in that story.
Don’t get me started.



Here, nothing but a great thing can happen. The tall woman becomes taller. —Louis Aragon

As you move through the pure white halls,
think: Sargent, Klimt. Thin fingers, thin forms.
Yes. Judith looks as if she’s dreaming
up some plot, avoiding the painter’s eye.
Follow her gaze. At its end you’ll inevitably find
a man. But beware, if his eyes are big as paintpots,
he’ll cling. Brushwork, gold foil is all he wants.
Now. This is the moment when life becomes
art. Circle the room slowly, mixing your blackness
into his linen (no polyester, of course). If he moves
after you, he’s fascinated. Follows to Picasso?
He might be yours. (Make sure to use protection.)



The less you resemble us, the more you are sure to charm. —John Jacques Rousseau

Position yourself, waiflike, in front of a Rothko.
Watch yourself being watched. But for God’s sake,
choose the one that goes with your skin! Yellows
wash you out. Green? Too creepy. Red?
Yes, a dark, sensual crimson. You, diagonal,
just outside the frame. Resist time’s constant
passing (a nip here, a tuck there) with the eye’s
endless desire. That’s what art is all about,
of course. You can do it, girls. You are the site
where the eye will stop. Be the object
and the frame. The looking, and the looking
away. Now let’s go. We haven’t got all day!

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