Today is Jackson Pollock's birthday, can you believe it? I can but that's because his birthday is marked on my calendar. He would have been 103 today sooo.....he'd probably be dead anyway at this point, but unfortunately he's been gone for a long time - since 1956, when he drunkenly ran his car off a Long Island road. Mm, but let's not talk the dirty dark details, ok? Not on his birthday! Not on Rex Manning Day!
Jackson Pollock changed my life. That sounds dramatic, but only because IT WAS! It was so dramatic, just the way life altering moments you experience while in high school should be. the moment it happened, I was on my best friend's couch and probably eating a Charleston Chew, wearing cropped white pants from Old Navy with butterfly clips perched in rows on my quasi-pixie cut haired head. #basic #winning
We were about to watch Pollock, the 2000 feature film about Pollock's rise to fame, starring Ed Harris as JP himself. I was like, ok fine I'll watch this movie it's about art and that'll make me more intellectual and cool or whatever, yeah I'm about to go to college soon, bitches! but really knew nothing about the man.
The movie started and I.....was rapt. My eyes were bugging out of my head. The poeticism, the grace, the tragedy, the beauty, the genius, the pain, the passion, the suffering, the brilliance, the ingenuity - he was unlike any person I'd ever read about or heard about or seen before. In my entire life up to that point, I'd never been to an art museum and had spent my life happily existing in the safety of suburbia, not really having a "thing" - you know, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and had no real passions to speak of (unless you counted TGIFriday's chicken strips and forking a friend's front yard).
But after the credits rolled...I knew art and modern painting and New York City and the Abstract Expressionists were my people and my place and my THING. I'd found my thing! Fast forward to me, here, at 31 years old and art has been and continues to be one of the biggest driving forces in my life. That movie shaped a HUGE paint splattered part who I am today. It was transformative and enlightening and I'm just so thankful for that womanizing drunk depressive!
I've made the pilgrimage to Pollock's Springs, Long Island (The Hamptons, for all you Kardashian folk) home twice. The first time was in 2004, I actually cannot believe this happened, but I went by myself - legit booked a hotel room and train ticket and the boy I was kissing at the time drove me to the train station legit - to do research for my Senior Thesis. It was an independent study on the psychoanalytic drawings Pollock did while in therapy for a hot second and I was going to the Pollock-Krasner House to listen to recorded interviews with Pollock, Clement Greenberg, Lee Krasner and a whole host of other folks who had something to say about our man.
Looking back, I can't believe I made it out of the Hamptons alive. Let me preface this part of the story with this one huge caveat - CELL PHONES AND WIFI AND LAPTOPS weren't a thing. Like, maybe they were a thing to rich adults working but not to poor college kids on a research trip.
I made about 1 million travel mistakes that, um, were actually pretty reckless and idiotic, I ate an entire pizza and drank an entire liter of coke while dancing around my (first solo!) hotel room listening to Letters to Cleo. I snuck into Lee and Jackson's BEDROOM OMG and scribbled a bit of yellow colored pencil onto a piece of paper as a souvenir. Here's the thing - the museum director - a lovely, petite, gray haired hippie lady - just kind of gave me the run of the place. She had errands to attend to and told me she'd be back later. I just...sat at a desk in Lee Krasner's studio (I honestly can't f'in believe that) and did my work and soaked in her essence.
The main attraction though - the real knock your socks off hairs stand on end time travel-y thing - is, of course, Pollock's studio. The birth place of the drip painting and of changing the trajectory of art forever. I'm not a religious person, nor am I particularly spiritual, but stepping onto that paint splattered floor, all alone, with shafts of sunlight falling in regular intervals onto the walls..... with Pollock's shoes safely encased in a glass box and his paint cans full of brushes lining the floor....I stood where he stood. Exactly where he made history. History that speaks to my soul and fills my heart. Pollock holds a mythical status in the art world, ya know - he's seen as kind of Romantic tragic hero - so to personally experience a small part of that big history was, well, cool as shit.
The second time I visited the Pollock-Krasner house was in 2006 with Tom, my (now) husband. Earlier that day, we'd stopped to get batteries for our camera (like, not ironically either) and I'd gotten a bee up my skirt. On our way to the house, we stopped at a farm stand to get a pint of strawberries and then spent the next two hours quietly roaming the grounds on our own, daydreaming about meals cooked in the kitchen and masterpieces made in the barn.
When we were both finally filled to the brim with awe and wonder and all the rest, Tom suggested we grab the strawberries out of the car and park ourselves in the garden - with our backs resting against the barn walls - for a snack. I'll just say that the strawberries were good, but the proposal was better ;)
We drove to the cemetery right after he popped the question and paid our respects to our heros before making the calls to friends and family to tell them the news. It was a morbid and weird thing to do, immediately post-engagement, but it's sort of special to me that Jackson and Lee were the first to know. I can only hope that while we were there, we were granted even a small bit of their passion and transcendent beauty.
(and none of their self destruction or violent tempers).
HBD, JP. ILY.