I reach out to grab Alice Neel’s cobalt contour line
that runs and drifts defining eyes, hands, breasts, room
and wallpaper, becoming thicker and thinner as the oil paint resists
and then releases, like an exhale. I watch it as it moves
through, hundreds of portraits of mothers and children,
Spanish Harlem neighbors, cleaning women and celebrities, friends, lovers
—all with a swath of olive green hush, and an almost neon-pink, somewhere on their faces—
each with their eyes fixed on Neel as she, the collector of souls, renders
them forever watching her from the canvas’s surface.
At eighty, she turns her gaze inward and paints herself nude,
focusing slightly elsewhere, seated in her usual marine-blue
and white striped chair, her exhausted breasts held tenderly
in blue outline, offering herself, her body, to be seen.
Tracing through my own body,
my own work,
I find the same blue cord,
a call to painters, a bid to mothers,
Get going, grab the line, there isn’t much time.
Stephanie Trenchard is a sculptor and painter working out of her Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin hot glass studio. Her artwork can be seen in the Museum of Wisconsin Art as well as in many prestigious collections.