In Sleep

Four of the most important works I produced in the 1980’s comprised a series which depicted a young woman, Cheryl Yorke, who was a student of mine in an art appreciation class at New York City Technical College in Brooklyn. This was an invigorating and challenging class. It gave me a chance to talk about various periods and styles of art to young art students.

One day I noticed that one of the students had come into class with small, delicate shells braided into her hair. Her beauty and grace had me totally transfixed I asked her if she would pose for me.

I started the series with Late Afternoon and continued with January Light. She was wonderful to work with, having an abundance of inner peace and depth and a glow, and yet also an extraordinary outer, formal beauty.

While working on the second piece, an image came to me of her asleep, with the moon somehow present. As she posed, she shared stories and images concerning her childhood in St. Vincent. The visions that she invoked worked their way into my drawing.

Incredibly to me, my preparatory studies for such a complicated work took five minutes. The drawing proceeded with such ease that at times it almost seemed that someone was drawing along with me or guiding my hand.

In the Gallery 1199 exhibit there was a good deal of comment about these three works, (a fourth, the Quiet Woman, was completed soon after) especially the last, In Sleep. Much of the discussion centered around the meaning of this work and the various interpretations that were offered – from plantation scene to migrant workers, to William Blake, to Gothic entombments, to Caribbean mysticism and Mexican realism. Since all these ideas were interesting but at great variance with my vision, it makes me wonder about how much the artist really knows about what he or she has created.