SICKNESS

I knew no one at the exhibition had come to see my paintings. They had come to see the paintings of Mike Apel, 30 and rich, some of it his daddy’s, sophisticated enough to not find himself struggling near the bottom rung. He huffed the faintest fumes of legacy.

The Apels were from South Africa and his father became enamored with Gertrude Stein when the family relocated to New York. You couldn’t see the influence in Mike’s work; what I saw was freedom.

He wanted to belong to performance painting. The act of painting itself, performing it, was his notion of radicality that I on the whole wasn’t opposed to. He thrilled Yoko Ono, who attended one of his shows. He had rid himself of bourgeois, painterly aesthetics. He was free of those delusions that haunted the art world.

Primrose Stefanski curated the show. A portly woman with thin, red glasses. She wears cowprint jackets, blouses, pants, shoes, bags. Her face was thin, her body was fat, and she repulsed me. I found power in admitting that.

Mike approached me three weeks ago because he knew I would kill, because he knew I was capable of it. Splitting my time between writing and painting was excruciating and I had this pain that had wrapped itself around my brain. There was agreement on that between us. But why come to violence, I asked.

There was no answer. The silence ensnared me—I was mothlike—but I soon had felt the pain arrive to my temples. The thought of seeing him dead on the floor was too much. I afforded myself the comfort of knowing it hadn’t happened yet.

So for the following three weeks I maintained my composure, knowing the show was going to happen. Was there any pain? Only infrequently, but I staved off any thoughts about what was expected of me. My great task. The whole point of the art world was no longer to find new artists but to kill them all. That must have been his point.

Our conversation had melted away into nothing. I remembered few details and I questioned if it had even happened. I had sent this to Prim that week and she had approved it quick, but it was all true: [My name]’s work as a white artist interrogates the roots of ethnography as personal inquiry, self-actualization, and “decolonization.” Their paintings often include subjects about Western notions of rootedness, discovery, and post-colonial exploitation that intersect with improvisation as politics.

I stood near the de Koonings and felt small; I shrank. I slipped out the door; entombed, I vomit in the street and lay in it for a while. I don’t remember.

— Hayden Church is the editor of Maximus Magazine