I had been long familiar with the massive paintings of Saville, which always carries the weight of flesh and meat, the terror of surgery. Her work simultaneously captures the shocking beauty and grotesque nature of our biology. I don’t think it’s exactly a revelation to say Saville is one of the few living masters in art today. I believe she’s one of the only active artists so successful in execution that not studying her is a gross act of negligence on the part of any student.
One day, I was in the Shit Show B’s studio at PAFA. I boredly stared out the window as she casually hung up dozens of air fresheners to mask the smell coming from the 50 pounds of raw tripe she had purchased from the Italian Market, bought with the intention of casting silicon molds for an installation.
As I sat there on her couch, I spotted something at my feet and reached down to pick up a copy of Jenny Saville & Glen Luchford’s photo collaboration book, Closed Contact. I didn’t even know she owned it.
This rare and expensive book was indiscriminately tossed on the floor under a pile of rags. I had heard about it, but never seen it. The collaboration was a thematic extension and a medium departure for Saville, and I held it with reverence as I flipped through the pages.
I think they are some of the boldest portraits ever created. Saville is fearless in presenting herself as a malleable bio organism, twisting unflinchingly with folds of fat and hair and raw, brave, naked exposure. Perfection.
“This book is important” I told myself.
By this point, my involvement with The Shit Show B had devolved into a twisted half relationship that was shackled in place. I knew I was in the shit, but my reasoning for still being with her wasn’t because of any codependent affections on my part, but because of cold mercenary realities of business. I was calculatedly trying to figure out how to untangle The Shit Show B from my life, while still engaged in the whirlwind of lunacy.
As I held Closed Contact in my hands, I swore that I would keep this book.
At this point I just want to interject, I don’t believe I was a victim. The Shit Show B may have had multiple mental disorders, was utterly toxic, and wreaked havoc in the lives of everyone she encountered; but during that that time, I was a willing participant in her games. That was just where I was.
And so our newest senseless enterprise would begin.
When she went to the restroom, I squeezed the book in my bag and took it home. I stashed it under my mattress. Five days later, it was missing. I knew I hadn’t moved it.
I found it in my closet under some sweaters. She hadn’t said a word to me about it. So I hid it again under my bathroom sink. A couple of days later, it was gone. I found it behind the couch in her studio.
Amid all the other drama, this ritual escalated. The book would move from her studio, to my apartment, to our office, to her car, to her house, then back again. With neither of us saying a word.
I didn’t mind the Easter egg hunt. The Shit Show B also compulsively hid envelopes of cash everywhere too. $200 under her car seat, $500 in my freezer. The envelopes weren’t even part of the game. Hiding the money was such a compulsion that she couldn’t keep track and she was just as surprised when she came across one.
Six months after I finally got her out of my apartment, I was still finding money. I would much rather have found the last hiding place for that copy of Closed Contact.
Sadly, I lost that game to The Shit Show B.