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Girl in a Wicker Chair.

from "Mary Pratt: Illuminations"

 Without a stitch on. Perched in a wicker armchair. Wary. Legs
drawn up, knees to chin. Feet splayed on seat's edge. Toes
bumpy--the most uneven parts of her. She's symmetrical. Glazed.
Almost, a porcelain figurine: lustrous body, sleek dark hair. The wing
chair is capacious--woven and airy--her uncurling calyx. In its middle,
her legs frame a shape like a vulva's double-headed axe (or is it a
tulip's chalice?) that strikes all four focal points of the
painting. Within the gap between touching ankles and pressed-together
shins, the inner curves of thighs describe an hour-glass stem. Its upper
goblet lit; lower root-bulb, shadowed. Folded, her limbs are rounded:
firm as a green shoot. Compact as a spring. Neck tense. Jaw squared.
Perfect lips. Midnight stare. Moth in a split chrysalis.
 The model's work is to sit--in the nude--for the artist who sees
her as his muse. The wife's work is to reproduce the slide her
husband took. Grasp what he fell for. Picture this mirrored voyeurism,
twisted as the wicker of the chair. White-washed, too this is no
minx--she's so composed. Glossy as a centre-fold. Mary Pratt has it
mapped, astute as an archaeologist gazing at rolling pasture and
pointing to tumuli, a Lydian amphitheatre. Laying out her dig. Goats may
graze the surface, but those buried forms cast shadows. Pratt reads the
unexcavated. Probes her husband's unused photographs of a naked
woman he liked to paint. "Ma Donna," his archetypal portrait.
But it's flat. Matte. Mary paints what he did not unearthing the
lovely Donna studying him. Their model, their monument: Delphic domestic
sphinx.
Donna watches us with shadowed eyes as an owl on a branch might pause
before unfurling doubly feathered wings and dropping on its prey. Light
rakes the surface-- tawny on the floor, amphibian on the wall,
milk-toothed against her skin. Wicker casts a lacy shadow. Creases wilt
the cushion's cotton cover, like a pillowcase slept on all night.
Cool hues. Smoothly parted hair hoods her erect head.
Hermaphrodite--female subject in a male structure (stacked balls, shaft,
glans)--which, at a glance, looks lunar. Almost circular. A satellite.
Donna as Diana. Or Artemis, Apollo's twin, filling her gaze by
watching him. If this painting is Mary's first stab at the female
nude, is it also a self-portrait? She his artistic midwife. His first
muse. Now huntress: and we're in her grip on a moon-lit flight. 
COPYRIGHT 2008 The Antigonish Review
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Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Munro, Jane
Publication:Antigonish Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Words:464
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