Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol, Marilyn, 1964

Part Three Chapter 5

On the floor, in a corner by a cabinet, dry reeds in a jar of smoked ginger compose a still life. The shadow of the reeds on the wall leads to a garish Warhol: Marilyn. I imagine her in the cast-iron clawfoot bathtub, soaping a raised leg; I imagine her leaning against the sloping rear, its curves harmonizing with hers.

Lost in thought in a cone of incandescence, you sit in your panties on the vanity counter, picking at your split ends. The medicine cabinet, through the frosted glass of its diamond-grid door, emits a glow that sculpts the contour of your shoulder. Legs crossed, head lowered, in a hand-over-hand movement you isolate a sheaf of hair and twirl it around your finger; as the ends pop out of the twist, you lean back into the light and inspect them dreamily.

̶  It’s tiring, Sprague, always being shadowed by your own image. That’s why I like Warhol: He out-objectifies the object itself, draining it of any trace of sentimentality. I like the way he conveys the obscene: so ascetic, so ironic.
̶  Yes.
̶  As soon as I became a teenager I had to learn a foreign language, the language Marilyn had mastered.
̶  Femininity?
̶  Yes.

You look up from your hair.

̶  Pass me the scissors—they should be in the drawer of the cabinet you’re sitting on.

Andy Warhol, 1964 | Photo: Billy Name

Andy Warhol, 1981 | Photo: Marcus Leatherdale

Snip, snip, snip: Into the trash bin the trimmed hairs drop.

̶ I feel completely out of step with how people see me. It has nothing to do with how I perceive myself.

Pale gold against pearl white, your tresses swing off your breasts to create a veil of modesty; left hand, right hand, left, you isolate a sheaf of hair, find a split end and rip it apart.

̶ It’s alienating, being reduced to one dimension.
̶ I never realized—
̶ ‘Cause you’re not a woman! Even if you are beautiful.

Gentle it comes, your smile. Left hand, right hand, left: You return to inspecting your hair.

̶ Have you ever felt like a mannequin in a shop window, Sprague?
̶ No.
̶ I have. That’s why I love Warhol. He shows what it’s like to feel like a mannequin—or a Christmas tree!—in a department store.

Behind the implacable symmetry of its diamond-grid door, the medicine cabinet calmly diffuses its frosted light. Cross-eyed, you zoom in on a split end: Your steely gaze turns rapturous as you rip the strand apart.

̶ I like that arid coolness he had, the coldness of his regard. He was the master of insignificance. He’d often say his ideal was to be a machine.

Over, under, over: Weaving your hair through the loom of your fingers, you shuttle down the sheaf, snipping off the split ends as they pop out.

̶ I like the honesty of that, his lack of faith in art. It’s very refreshing.

From the hollow of your clavicle you draw a golden curl. Search and destroy! Deft in their dirty work, your fingers rip the split end apart. On the vanity you float away, glazed eyes aglow.