Slick (Self-Portrait) (1977). Barkley Hendricks.

I arrived at college as a sheltered, shy, nerdy suburban girl. I  had never kissed a boy or a girl; I had never drank alcohol; I knew next to nothing about the world. I may as well been 12 years old. I liked to draw and paint and wanted to be an artist but really didn’t know what that meant — other than my parents had forbidden this calling.

Soon after arriving, I was introduced to my advisor, Barkley Hendricks. Back then a student never called an instructor by their first name. He was Mr. Hendricks to his face, and Hendricks behind his back. This is how we referred to all our instructors — by last name only.

Hendricks was very imposing to me. He seemed very sophisticated. To my 18-year-old mind, he was already old. It’s funny to think now that he was only in his 34 when I met him, and that he had gotten his position at my college right out of graduate school. He reviewed my drawings, which I was very proud of, and said I had potential. I know now that I had good skills but no real sense creativity or expression. Back then I was disappointed that he wasn’t more impressed with my work. Everyone had always complimented my art and it was the first time someone was not gushing over it. He wasn’t unkind, but the exchanged intimidated the hell out of me.

Still, I wanted to learn from him. When I saw his art, it blew me away. I wanted to paint liked he painted. His huge, beautiful painting of people — I’d never seen anything like them.

Once about ten years ago, I was in a bookstore and saw a book on the shelf with his name on it, The Birth of Cool. It was kind of amazing to see it and think well, that man is finally getting his due.

A little over a week ago, my friend C. was at the Yale art museum and sent me a photo she took of one of his paintings there. I wrote her back, I’d know that style anywhere. It still impressed me, and I felt a nostalgia for the time when I thought I could live a life like Hendricks: the life of an artist.  A few days later I found out that he had suddenly passed away, and I was stunned.

There’s so many things I didn’t realize when I was a freshman. Mainly, that it was highly unusual to have a Black artist as my advisor in this cozy little New England college. The fact that he had already made a name for himself was even more unusual, but it was only in recent years that I really thought about these things.

I also didn’t realize for years what a huge influence he was on my art. His human-scale figures inspired me to do the same. A lot of my early post-college work is really one big homage to him, but I was unconscious about it for a long time.

It pains me now that I never circled back and thanked him for what he gave me, which was so much: believing that I could live a life as artist (even if I didn’t end up doing that), believing I could make art that would give me the thrill that his art did, believing that I should make the art I wanted to make and not concern myself with fashion or trends.

I strongly believe his presence as an artist will only grow over time.

Even though I will never be able to say it to him in this life, I still want to say: Mr. Hendricks, thank you.

anna and isadore

Anna and Isadore, 1986.

I was wallowing in a swamp of loneliness, horniness and despair when E, apparently having had enough of my nonsense, strongly recommended that I start dating. I thought, dear god – no. The horror… the horror.  I thought I was done with all that forever. But if you’re alone and you don’t want to be, that’s what you do.

Since I last dated in the mesozoic era (hey, those were good times before mammals!) they now have new dating apps that are designed to make you even more scattered, bewildered and insane than earlier processes.

The first one I tried rhymes which cinder, like in Cinderella. But there ain’t going to be no Prince Charming coming from this thing. It’s known as a hookup app, although some say it is also for dating but I don’t buy it. Who would date someone based on a couple photos and a sentence? Still, I approached it as a dating app because I’m a moron who works at cross-purposes with myself.

So, if you don’t know, how it works is you look at someone’s photo and decide on the spot  “yes” or “no” — could you fuck them or not? I guess you’re supposed to pretend that the question is more refined than that. I was trying to find the “maybe” when I accidentally “super liked” some guy. He immediately texted me and I, not being a boar, did not let on that I had “liked” him by accident. But after a few exchanges he was offering to cook me dinner and we all know what that means. Dinner spelled S-E-X. So I stopped answering him because I wasn’t actually attracted to him (again, based on a couple of photos).

Then I liked someone on purpose, and he turned out to be a fairly real, funny guy. I got on the phone with him and then arranged a date with him. I thought, well, I gotta start somewhere. The date wasn’t stellar, but at least I had taken the plunge.

Heartened by the relative ease of this brief and mostly painless encounter, I posed a profile on a app which rhymes with the title of this post. We’ll call this app “Stupid” for short.  In one week on Stupid I got 140 or so likes, which is just ridiculous. I mean, how am I supposed to manage that? Not one of the guys looked hot to me. I had to look at their photos, and look at them, and look at them some more, and try to convince myself that maybe I could be attracted to them if they had the right personality.

The good/bad thing about Stupid is that they have literally 1000 questions for you to answer on all kinds of topics: politics, sex, social mores, ethics. The questions sound like they were all written by 25-year-olds, because their are things like “Do you always consult your parents for advice?” (1/2 the people my age would need to hold a seance to do this) or “Do you want to have kids?” (yes, so did the Virgin Mary. Wait, that’s not what I meant). There’s also that weird social engineering thing. What I mean is, they tell you the % of answers in common you have with a person. You’re much more likely to look at someone with 95% than 70%, so the app engineers who you will interact with.

I’ve been thinking I should ask my own questions, such as:

In any case, I went on a date with a 90-percenter. He was very sweet but also quite the hippie. I liked that he wore a ton of jewelry but it was hard not to laugh when he  talked about his sadness over Harbin Hot Springs burning down. The next  day he sent me a note via Stupid saying he had a nice time but there was no spark. Then he immediately closed his account. Yes, I caused the man to flee from Stupid. I wish I would do this same.