American Gothic

Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton was naturally stunned
by the commercial success of his pupil Jackson Pollock, whose No. 5, 1948,
a “nest-like drizzle of yellows and browns on fiberboard,” sold for 140 million,
becoming the most expensive painting in the history of modern art,
and this, after the (near) seduction of his one wife Rita!
Pollock: “She was the ideal woman.”

Childhood: hunger. His mother Stella, strangely inexpressive:
“She sat like statuary the entire evening and didn’t move once.”
Romantic History: his approach with Lee Krasner, after
introductions at a dinner party: “Do you like to fuck?”

Mentor: “He couldn’t absorb words and he couldn’t use them,
but he picked up on the subtlest nonverbal signals.”
Protégé: “Damnit, Tom, damnit! You know what I mean!”

Verbs used to describe Pollock’s process of applying paint:
fling, dribble, hurl, and dump
(drip having become the name of the style).

Art Historian: “None of Pollock’s paintings are true abstractions. They are
fundamentally figurative paintings, albeit in a way that’s hard to read.”

Reporter: “So Jack, how does it feel to be considered the father
of Abstract Expressionism?”
Pollock: “What the hell is Abstract Expressionism?”

1943: Compositional space of Mural: a barn. Technique: two
days spent crawling over a thirty-foot canvas, flinging cigarette
ash, paint, and glue. (Bio. note: He wrote Jackson Pollock across
the canvas, then hung the imagery from the letters of his name.)


Megan Milks is the author of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body (Feminist Press, 2021), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender fiction, as well as Slug and Other Stories and Remember the Internet: Tori Amos Bootleg Webring.

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