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So many paintings have been made about women by men, but in those paintings you can see that the women’s gaze is only pigment that the man has put there: on camera the woman is a real live person and, no matter how much the director tries to turn her into a colour, there she is looking through the mask of the colours that make up the makeup on her face, and also her face, her hair, her eyes.

‘On my desktop’, writes Amina Cain in a 2017 article, ‘are .jpgs of paintings of women reading books [. . .]  something in me relaxes when I look at them. The women are all in repose, sitting or lying down. Lost in what they are reading, deep in concentration. They look healthy. When we are that relaxed, we are.’ In her debut novel Indelicacy, which follows her two short story collections I Go To Some Hollow (2009) and Creature (2013), Cain revisits this constellation of art, solitude, and a deeply relaxed female gaze.

I said one had been sent to my hotel room once in another town, only it wasn’t a hotel, it was a hospital.

When an institution places itself at such a high remove, like a post-modern Parnassus, you would think that it’d have the courage to frame it, to offer up to the elect, who have had the patience to tolerate the traffic, a definitive perspective on the city below. I wanted to see LA coalesce around some prominent landmark or a distant vanishing point, something that could give it shape and form – something, at least, that wasn’t a road.

 
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Both of my ex-wives accused me of being too opinionated. Don’t even know what that means. How would we live if we had no strong opinions? I think, I observe. So I know things. To pretend otherwise helps no one.

For the subsequent eighteen years, the trains have carried me to and from a place that started as home, but is now simply where I am from. A place I wanted to escape, and now often long to return to.

Ruth Asawa knew what colour they were at different times of day and at different stages of growth, how a leaf might have a pale or dry edge, or how their petals freshened after rain, but she didn’t draw any of that. She only ever concerned herself with the line between the asters and the world.