Jane Hammond, Untitled (193, 184, 141, 109), 1990, Oil on linen, 76 x 70 inches. Collection of Madeleine and David Lubar. © Jane Hammond. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York. From the exhibition Houdini: Art and Magic, on view at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin, February 11 through May 13, 2012.
Cut Out: What the Magician Misses Most
after an untitled painting by Jane Hammond
Ability to quit, to risk the String of pearls that used to sit
heavy against the throat, hand at nape, the clasp’s click.
Some days the children: the stroller weight quickstep; their sickness & soak;
the spit; the grit. Some days the link to Mother, who wished for this.
The feet. Feel of toe-heel connected earth. Thick
hair hidden underneath slick. Holes in clothes. Unbound chest. Glitterlessness.
Correct pronouns. Her tongue & voice.
Knowing that she was—wasn’t she?—a woman. Correspondence to her silhouette.
Working unlit, off-canvas, backstage. Relative lightness
of ball & chain. The brush, the pen, the magic
stick the skirted shadow cast still carries. Its
backstory: mending his trousers, booking his trips,
rehearsing—endlessly rehearsing—his lines, his tricks. Removing his glass
black shoes. Taking off his moon-powder face.