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The Mirror

October 06, 1985

Two Views of Jennifer Bartlett

From "Getting Everything In," by Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, April 15, 1985:

Jennifer Bartlett's New York friends are often surprised to learn that she grew up in Southern California. How could that laid-back, sybaritic culture (as we tend to view it from the East Coast) have produced an artist of her energy, analytic rigor and undissembled ambition? Bartlett herself says that California always seemed strange to her. When she was 5, she told her mother she was going to be an artist and live in New York. Although she now lives part of the time in Paris in order to be with her husband, film actor Mathieu Carriere, New York has been her real home for the last 15 years and her aesthetic home for a lot longer than that.

From "Brushing Up," by Joan Juliet Buck. This passage was originally published in Vanity Fair, April, 1985: Jennifer Bartlett was born Jennifer Losch in Long Beach. "Our famous ancestors are Cardinal Wolsey and Tilly Losch, the dancer," she says. Her father was a pipeline contractor, her mother a fashion illustrator. "We lived in an idyllic spot right on the ocean with just a twisted boardwalk in front of the house and then sand. You could watch whales going by on their way to mate . . .

Mills, a California liberal arts college for women, was the only place she applied to. "I thought people who went back East to school talked East Coast, which I found revolting stylistically." She was encouraged by her art teachers at Mills, although her work was not conventional. "I'd do these very large undersea pictures with everything that's under the sea in them. In fact, I've just recently completed another one." The smile widens--she loves describing absurdities, obsessions. "Spanish-mission scenes were my favorite. In the foreground the Indians work in the fields; then you have them cooking their meals; then you have the mission, with the nuns and the fathers; and behind that you have some cows and stuff; and behind that you have the cliffs where they throw over the goods to the ships that are waiting, and then you have the ocean; and then you have . . . Europe!" The missions, of course, were on the West Coast.

Stephen Rosenthal, from his glossary of art terms in Issue: A Journal for Artists, No. 1: "WEST COAST. Artistic center fiercely competitive with the Bermuda Triangle."

Brandy and Summer Gloves

From "Silver Lining: Growing Old Gracefully," by former presidential press secretary Liz Carpenter, in the March issue of Texas Monthly.

Then there is that vital ingredient to aging, humor. My mother's humor was so much a part of her world that to me it always represented something to strive for. Humor was a quality born out of love for humanity and a high heart. She often admonished her five children to "try to see the humor" in a situation.

I took her advice to heart. Now, instead of being annoyed by my nearly deaf ear, I find myself arranging the seating at dinner parties according to people's ears--whom do they really want to listen to? Instead of worrying about not being able to get into my hot tub one day, I may follow state treasurer Ann Richards' advice and put in a sliding board from my bed to the tub, which sits outside the window overlooking the Austin skyline. Rather than be buried or cremated, I think I would like to be bronzed sitting in my Jacuzzi, spouting hot water all over the city. I hope the law allows it!

A lot of my heroes are people who have shown me how to grow old with grace and humor. Since I fancy myself a writer, I like to read poetry and to gather writers, poets and politicians together. I am especially indebted to a poet I never met, an Englishwoman named Jenny Joseph. She has outlined the rest of my life as I would like to live it.

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me,

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press

alarm bells

and run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick the flowers in other people's gardens

And learn to spit. . . . But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple."

From "Warning," 1963 by Jenny Joseph, taken from "Rose in the Afternoon," published by J. M. Dent and Sons, London.

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