In The Shabbiness of Beauty, published this past month by MACK, the artist and writer Moyra Davey places her work in conversation with that of the photographer Peter Hujar. Before becoming a book, the project appeared as an exhibition at Berlin’s Galerie Buchholz in spring 2020. Thousands of miles away, confined to their New York City apartment, Eileen Myles printed out Davey’s and Hujar’s photographs and mounted their own private rendition of the show. The essay Myles wrote about this experience appears below.
Peter Hujar, Paul’s Legs, 1979, from The Shabbiness of Beauty, by Moyra Davey and Peter Hujar (MACK, 2021). Courtesy The Peter Hujar Archive LLC.
Steve died. He was huge. He was fifty and lived in the apartment downstairs right by the front door. His Yankees sticker is still there. He went into the hospital on March 2 and died on March 22. Anna at the laundromat told me. Anna’s quite bent, deep into her eighties. I remember her in her fifties a mean and vivid woman. She got older the place is filthy many of the machines are broken but it’s on the corner and I’m weirdly loyal to it. Steve worked there usually standing outside and I think he delivered bags for Anna. He helped me lug things upstairs too. Years earlier he lived right next door to me with a crowd of people. I remember when he was a little boy and he was thrown butt naked into the hall as a joke. I was coming up the stairs and he was desperately pounding on the door. Your neighbor died Anna told me when I was getting my change. Steve I asked. He’d be standing outside my front door when I came home from wherever. Hey Steve. Was it COVID I asked. We don’t know. His sister comes once a week to get the mail Anna said. She comes on Tuesday. They still send it. I told her the post office doesn’t take you off for a while. They’re worried the landlord won’t give back the security she intimated. What’s it like five hundred dollars. Two. Two hundred and something. Then I turned hoping his sister would come in. And now this place is familiar less. I mean everything perpetually feels more unconnected to a past when I was young and the Tin Palace on East Second Street was a jazz/poetry bar and Stanley Crouch held court at the bar. He died last week. My friends who were bartenders lived in this building and I just went over here one day on my break and I could have it the super said and I moved in. This is like 1977. Time puts its stamp on everything.
This leg. I’m beginning to print the pictures out. Fifty-five or fifty-six of them. It looks lousy but you get the graphic thing of it. I have four hanging over my bed. Moyra was interested in the quality of hair smooshed when wet. It’s about not shaving. Isn’t it funny or cool that hair does this. And those droplets below the ankle. One on the calf. It’s a specimen leg, not unloving or dead. Just deeply specific. To take my leg or that leg and say this. The black line at the bottom further holds back the organic nature. Like suturing it. So the show goes Leg, Nude, Kate (without scruple). I’ll print out Nude now. Read More