These days I go to museums as much to look at people looking at art or photography as to look at works of art. It isn’t that I don’t love art because I do. If I go too long without standing before a Lucas Cranach, or Rothko, or Beckmann or a photo by Francesca Woodman I feel the absence as a real physical ache.
Watching people encounter a long-cherished work of art is endlessly fascinating. Usually it’s just the glance, the quick consultation with a friend and the walk on. But sometimes a person is so struck by a work of art there is a whole unfolding theatric of engagement to observe. They walk up and stare, growing increasingly still, until they stand mesmerized as if trying to dissolve the surface and plunge bodily into the painting.
On occasion you witness some funny visual spectacle of mirroring with clothing, gesture or appearance of the subject of the painting uncannily resembling the observer. The recognition always brings laughter and usually a flurry of selfies.
Other times if you attentive and standing close you will notice someone almost having a lover’s response to a painting. They stand staring as their breathing, heart rate and even scent changes. Watch closely and you will see their body language claim possession as if to say “this painting is mine” as they stake out a space before the work oblivious to the desire of other visitors to see the painting.
I recognize this fascination is a bit of an obsession and as with any obsession, however mild, there’s always some history behind it. If I am honest about it my fascination with people looking at art is forever entangled with something quite beautiful and strange and unexpected that happened to me a very long time ago. I had just turned eighteen and was earnest and passionate but naïve as they come when my erotic universe was permanently transfigured by a woman more than three times my age.
I had just turned 18 and had skipped out on High School for the day to take the train into New York City. I had just walked from Grand Central to 53th street to explore the wonders of the Museum of Modern Art and was headed to a favorite gallery when I saw her. She was sitting on a gallery bench staring transfixed at Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman I.
I was immediately struck by the understated elegance of her poise, her elongated neck, and the simple stylish grace of her clothes. What felt like a burning intellectual and emotional curiosity about the painting at which she gazed seemed to radiate from her in waves. I thought she must have been a Dancer earlier in her life.
As I looked closer I realized she was much older than her bearing and style and fitness hinted. Her beautiful hair, drawn back into a pony tail, was shock white, not by design, but naturally. And her skin, though beautiful and quite pale, bore distinctive marks of age.
What was striking too was the contrast between her cool transfixed poise and the almost violent intensity of the painting. De Kooning’s “Woman I” is a powerhouse of expressionist color, form, and raw power. The painting shows a seated woman with a wildly gaping mouth. It is as if in the single image De Kooning fused all the Goddesses from myth and history and dream. Part Marilyn Monroe, part Venus of Willendorf and part half-crazed witch staggering out of the dark places of the mind. She is beautiful, terrifying, sexy in a frenzied and unhinged way, and definitely powerful as if she’s the earth mother naked at last and with teeth. I loved it.
Quite deliberately I sat down on the bench next to the woman and quietly drew my breath in deeply to catch her scent. Thinking back on the event these two actions always amazed me because I at the time I was not only young and naïve but a bit awkward and very shy.
Her perfume was so striking it made me tremble inwardly a bit. There in front of one of the wildest and controversial paintings of the 20th century I felt like I was drinking in a scent that was at once lovely and refined and utterly savage and dripping with sex. It was exciting. Then she turned from the painting to face me and in a soft voice with precise diction and the hint of a European accent I did not recognize she said:
“It is the sheer beauty of the paint itself beneath all the frenzy of the subject that has me enthralled. I think she is quite beautiful, don’t you?”
It was all too much. Yes, yes, yes, the woman in the painting was beautiful in a monstrous, exciting, demonic, devouring way. And yes, this painting, already a bit infamous for its alleged misogyny, casino şirketleri was in truth stunningly beautiful at core. And yes, it spoke of powers of the feminine that don’t fit any mold, but are as real as any snapshot or fashion ideal. But none of these ideas that swirled in my mind made it to speech. Instead I simply said quietly:
“Yes, I think she is beautiful.”
And that was it. Suddenly it was as if we had been friends for years. We talked easily and openly. I had never in my life been able to talk with someone this way. We talked about the painting. We talked of our love of art. We talked of the scents of New York in the spring. We talked of my skipping school and my college plans.
Helen talked of her work, first as a dancer and then as a sculptor. I liked her. I liked her immensely. I felt a real sense of dread that we would stand up from the bench, go our ways and never see each other again. But as it turns out that isn’t what happened at all. Instead she looked at me with a warm unreadable smile and said almost playfully:
“Come home with me, let me cook you a meal.”
The words were so utterly unexpected I was stuck dumb. If she had asked me home to see her sculptures I would have excitedly stammered “yes, of course” but preparing a meal for me seemed so unexpectedly maternal, protective, and intimate. I just stared at her for a moment until all seriousness dropped from my face and I broke into a smile. And wordlessly we were off.
We took a subway down to lower Manhattan. Looking at her in the greenish glare of the subway lighting I realized she was much older than my own mother yet she had a vibrancy about her I found beautiful and exciting. Even against the background roar of the subway we were again immersed in excited talk.
I loved the way her hands gestures as if choreographing every image and idea. I was enthralled. It all seemed so vital and easy and arty and smart too. It was as if the whole swirling jumble of my wordless thoughts for years suddenly broke not only into brilliant clear language but into touch and into bonding as I drank in her words and she drank in mine.
Helen’s live/work studio at Wesbeth was cluttered with sculptures and books. We sat together on her red couch. She asked me my age and laughed when I told her eighteen saying she never imagined I was so young. She then told me that today happened to be her birthday and she was turning sixty-three.
Wow, three and a half times my age! That was something else. She poured each of us large glass of wine. She talked about her sculptures which were mostly human forms distorted in fascinating but lovely ways. There was an edgily erotic current running through all her work and I found myself squirming a bit as I watched her hands describing the process of creating sculpture in clay.
I hadn’t imagined this would go anywhere sexual. All my crushes had been on girls my age. And though Helen was beautifully fit and had a mind on she was old enough to be my grandmother so I just wasn’t going there.
Yet, surprisingly, when our eyes would meet I would find myself drawn into her dark liquid eyes in a way that would make me tremble inwardly a bit. And as I watched her wrinkled but beautifully expressive hands seeming to recreate her sculptures I felt the same insistent heat in my loins I would feel when after looking my bedroom door at home to think about my latest crush. But what really made me squirm inwardly was watching her mouth as she would talk. I tried not to stare but somehow the precision of her diction, the slight accent and the beauty and excitement of her words drew my eyes to her mouth.
Somehow the topic came back to De Kooning’s Woman I painting. I started drifting into her words:
“What if the artist strives express to the totality of their subject without saying no to any feeling or desire or impulse they might have. Suddenly the fetishizing of skin and surface explodes into a new aesthetic that says yes to all you are. Yes, to the angry Goddess, yes to the witch within, yes to your raw hungers, yes to our mythic past, yes to our crazy sexualities, yes to our most craven cravings. Take it far enough in art and you’ve got Woman I, take it far enough in life …”
Staring at Helen my insides grew heated as hungers surpassing all the crushes and sexual frenzy I had felt for classmates coalesced into something far more urgent and real. The part of my brain that said this can’t be happening just shut up as I realized I wanted to touch Helen more intensely than I casino firmaları had ever wanted to touch anyone. At that moment my terribly shy, awkward and very much a virgin eighteen-year-old-self did the impossible.
I took Helen’s wrinkled but lovely sixty-three-year-old face firmly in my hands and staring into her dark beautiful eyes kissed her mouth, not shyly but hungrily. I did this and my world changed.
We kissed for a long, long time. Gently, exploringly, fiercely, hungrily sucking. I loved the thrusting intensity when our mouths became a mashing swirl of tongues. I loved the feel of her saliva flowing into my mouth as I would suckle. I loved the soft delicacy and warm flood when we would gently explore. Finally, disentangling from the kiss, I leaned back to look at her. Without a word she drew my shirt over my head and began to unbutton her blouse. Then she softly stared at my eyes as she removed her bra.
I had fantasized about breasts a thousand times during my daily masturbatory frenzies. I had stared at them in magazines and imagined what they looked like under the bras and blouses of every girl I had a crush. But I had never seen breasts on a live person close up before. And Helen’s breasts, for that matter, were unlike any I had seen in pictures or imagined. They were amazing, pale, droopy and with enormous nipples. All the nipples I had seen before in pictures were so much smaller than Helens. Her nipples had large areolas and the nipple itself protruded perhaps half an inch and were even a bit bulbous toward the tip. And her breasts themselves were so pale and smallish but saggy in a soft droopy way I found exciting beyond words.
Helen had talked about the almost mystical wonders of hands on clay. And now my hands were aching to touch and imprint her breasts so pale with enormous protruding bulbous nipples. And I did. I opened my palms flat and just softly traced the contours of her sagging breasts so exquisitely soft beneath my skin. Her nipples, in contrast to exquisite soft of the rest of her breasts, were hard beneath the soft of the palm of my hand. I was amazed that as my skin moved so softly over their tips they swelled becoming even larger.
Helen took my head in her hands and drew my mouth down to her massive nipples. It was like tasting paradise. They swelled even longer in my mouth and became thicker too. They were massive and rippled and I sucked and suckled into paradise amazed that my attentions could make them swell further. And as I suckled Helen let out low moan after low moan until I could feel her voice vibrating inside of me. Her artists hands caressed my head and face and neck but also found their way too her belly and thighs.
“Let’s get these off” she hissed with barely controlled frenzy and, in a moment, we were both naked. My cock springing free throbbing hard with excitement with a shiny glistening drop of precum already forming on its tip. I had always been shy about being naked in the locker room but now the appreciative glance of Helen’s eyes at my cock made it throb even harder.
I returned to suckling her breasts as her artist’s hands found their way to that warm, soaked, magical place beneath her thick bush. Her moaning became more guttural, primal, and insistent. Suddenly as I suckled her huge nipples I was flooded with a scent simultaneously raw, beautiful and urgent. I knew instinctively it was the scent of her excitement and her desire for me and I felt a kind of satisfaction I had never felt before. Enthralled I drew my breath in again and again as I suckled. I was smelling paradise itself but in a raw and animal kind of way. And I knew just what to do.
In a flash I had left her amazing nipples behind and traced with my hungry mouth a line down the middle of her soft but flat belly toward her ample bush. Her belly was softer than I ever imagined a belly could be. It was flat and pale and a bit mottled with age spots but it was lovely anyway and with every inch my mouth moved downward the scent of her excitement grew.
I had read all about clitorises and how they were the center of a woman’s pleasure but as my mouth found her very large, swollen and soaked clitoris all that book stuff dropped away beneath the sheer rapture of drawing her swelling joy into my mouth. My pleasure as her body started to thrash and quake was beyond anything I had ever experienced.
Every soft suckle, every whisper-soft caress of my tongue, every harder suckling enfolding of tongue and lips sent shudders through Helen’s body. It felt like my mouth güvenilir casino was no longer my mouth but her pleasure itself, with every movement of my lips and radiating out through her in waves. Her own fingers kept plunging inside of her so I put mine inside instead and the sense of the wet warm enfolding embrace of her loins felt amazing.
My fingers wanted deeper and their thrusting matched the rhythm of her own increasingly pronounced up-bucking into my hand. Her moaning by now was deep and guttural. I don’t think I had ever heard a more beautiful sound. Suddenly she grabbed my hands and said almost shyly:
“I have to warn you, I piss when I come, I can’t ever control it.” This was 1978 and no one had heard of g-spots, or Graffenburg, or squirting or uterine ejaculation. I had one flash of dismay at her words thinking crazily I had done something wrong. But then the delight I felt at suckling her ample and exquisite clitoris and the paradise of my fingers enfolded by the sloshy heat of her insides, and the excitement of my touch giving her bliss made her words irrelevant. I kept suckling and fingering her for all I was worth her moans quickening and quickening until she started crying out with a voice almost primal in its raw intensity. Her up-thrusting into my hand became intense and as she screamed it was if she bodily became release and rapture in one as my hands and face were flooded with an explosion of her wetness.
Even at that moment decades ago when I thought it was piss instead of ejaculate she flooded my face with it was fine. If anyone had told me the day before I would have an old woman pissing in my face I would have been horrified. Truly horrified. But in truth it was amazing. It was like the rapture of her release was bodily flooding me, piercing me. Instead of turning from the flood I involuntarily opened my mouth so I could taste that part of her and it was lovely.
After I lay my head sideways on her belly probably the happiest I had ever been up till then. Her waves of pleasure slowly diminished but I could still feel them washing over and into me. I could hear the rumbling of her belly and even the faint hint of her heart beat. Her next words were electrifying.
“I need your cock inside me.”
And so, on a beautiful spring day AWOL from school and now late in getting home, I lost my virginity. How can I find words to express the awe and pleasure I felt as my penis first slid into inside of Helen? The sloshy warm tight embrace of her vagina was the best feeling my body had ever experienced. But even this paled before the awe and delight of actually being inside of this woman I adored. I was drinking in her dark oceanic eyes as I slowly moved inside of her. The waves of pleasure surging through me bodily mingled with the waves of pleasure surging through her. In the intensity of mingling I no longer knew where I ended and where she began.
It took a minute but I finally found a rhythm to my movements and then was thrusting harder and harder telling Helen I loved her which might sound silly now but it was utterly and deeply true. When I finally came it was explosive and freeing and bliss itself. Helen climaxed too. Not as forcefully as before but a climax it was. And looking at her she had tears in her eyes and I did too.
I learned a lot from Helen over the next months and I learned about kink too since she had an erotic core that thrived on saying “yes” to everything we are. Curiously her desires and sense of the erotic matched her work as an artist. And in a sense Helen’s words about De Kooning expressing the inward totality of someone without fear or framing or censorship could apply to her sense of sexuality as well.
In fact, the very next time I saw Helen she commented that I had neglected to administer her birthday spanking. That little comment I hardly understood at the time opened up worlds of pleasure still with me. Suffice to say a couple hours later when I turned her very soft ass from pale to pink and from pink to scarlet I was amazed to find my cock growing harder with every slap of my hand. And I was more amazed to find her pussy soaked to dripping by the time I counted up to sixty-three.
When, just before leaving for college, Helen told me I had a whole world before me that she would be a block to I cried for two days straight. Only later I realized the selfless grace of her breaking it off as my adult life began but I was crushed. We wrote from time to time and then, sadly, the sheer grinding math of age and aging took over and I heard from Helen no more.
Now in my fifties occasionally a sculpture of Helen’s comes up for auction. As I lean back in my chair I remember her voice and smell and passion and words and I am infinitely grateful for every moment of life we shared.