A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 220

Wednesday, June 23

I highly recommend the Alice Neel show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was an expressionist portrait painter (1900-84)—there may be a couple of landscapes in the show—a leftist, and a bohemian mother of at least three children, all by different fathers I believe.

Like most museum shows, there is just not enough detail about Neel’s life. But the Met curator apparently found it difficult to omit all biographical particulars, especially since Neel’s portrait subjects include her children and various Communist and leftist acquaintances. Neel lived in Harlem and “Spanish Harlem,” and apparently at times had digs on the Upper West Side and on the New Jersey shore. Two of her most engaging paintings are of black children from Harlem; others include a gay couple and a nude self-portrait painted when she was around eighty. She didn’t shy away from reality.

Could this exhibit have been hung before the lockdown, without anticipating the social distancing that would be wanted? Although the Met tries to limit the number of guests, paintings are grouped pretty close together and people still crowd around just as they did in pre-pandemic times. Especially worrisome are a number of small paintings crammed into corners which at any given moment tended to draw a crowd of a half-dozen viewers. I skipped a lot of these. Everybody had masks, though, and all were well-behaved.

The Metropolitan remains frightfully expensive: $25 for adults, $17 for seniors although “the amount you pay is up to you” if you are a New York State resident. We got in for free thanks to my McGraw-Hill retiree arts card.

During these days in the city, I am finding that I remain a pandemic paranoid. I flinch when people get too close—even when other pedestrians just follow too closely behind. I am especially wary of tailgating pedestrians who speak in loud voices and who seem anxious to get around me. I have had space to myself for months, even when going out for solitary walks. Today, we’ll go on a jaunt to the Apple Store—and that should put my patience to an extreme test.

Dinner: we are reduced to hot dogs accompanied by beans and cold cucumber soup.

Entertainment: Netfix’ policer Unit 42.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *