1. I first met Harry Roseman as a reproduction in 2013, in a digital photograph of a portrait his wife Catherine Murphy painted in 1985. He was naked and seated before a full-length mirror, visible therefore in the round. His body looked waxed, and he held a small statue whose posture he mimicked, or which mimicked his posture. Things like this can go in either direction. A few weeks after seeing the reproduction, the actual painting arrived at the gallery as part of an exhibition I was coordinating. The painting was large, and Harry’s skin on canvas seemed even more waxed than it did on my laptop screen. When Harry himself—Harry in the flesh rather than the digital Harry or the painted Harry—arrived on installation day, the man at the gallery door was the man in the painting, though he seemed smaller. His eyes flashed with a vibrating efficiency, the likes of which I’ve not often seen on an artist. I didn’t know whether to look at his face or his body. I was unable to say if Harry’s skin has the waxed quality of the painting, since when in public, he wears clothes.
2. I’m an art historian with a specialization in French painting. I lived for two distinctly superlative years in Paris, where chain-smoking and minuscule cups of coffee fueled my dissertation on Napoleon. Napoleon, who commissioned a lot of enormous paintings, was very fashionable among academics in the late 1990s. After finishing my Ph.D. and teaching for a while, Napoleons of another sort entered my orbit. I left academia and worked as a pastry chef for seven years, bewildering my art historical colleagues and annoying my mother. I did not care. Puff pastry and chocolate were sexier than a despot with democratic pretensions.
I still make dessert when called upon by friends and holidays, but ultimately the career-change was temporary. I’ve returned to art historical research, writing, and curating, with upcoming exhibitions on Woodstock artist Bolton Brown, Mike + Doug Starn, and the French Surrealist Georges Malkine, the latter of which has been my most consuming project since 2010. When not working, I scale vertical rock faces and wonder if golf might be a safer hobby.
- October 2013