42 NYC Julia

Everybody knows somebody who lives in New York. And I arranged to meet my friend Julia, a poet and painter from the Bronx who I met through my brother, Irish. One day at work, a young co-worker had a bad headache, so Irish drove her to the emergency room. She died that night from a condition so rare that the doctors claimed she may well have been the only person in the U.S. to die from it that year. That co-worker was Julia's daughter, and at the funeral Irish gave her my number as a fellow writer. We traded e-mails and phone calls for three years, but I had never set eyes on her before our meeting at the Whitney lobby.

I spotted her exactly how she said I would: "I'll be the only one wearing a big white floppy hat." Julia had the big unjudging eyes of a deadpan comic and a narrow face, sanguine and brown, that reminded me that she often mentioned her immigrant Italian parents. I sought out her thoughts as a painter about the Hoppers.

"You get a sensation of being alone," she calculated about all the Hoppers in the gallery. "In Early Sunday Morning, you would know all of the shop owners. It's a town we all recognize, and you can still find hints of it in our cities. I grew up in this place. But I wonder: will the next generation have the same response?"

Julia noted about Second Story Sunlight, "You can't be seeing the house from where you think you're seeing it from. You're raised up. So we're standing in a building across the way in the second floor leaning over our own little balcony. He moves things around to make the paintings work." She shrugged and added like someone who has done the same for her art, "You make things up in order to make it right. That's why the painting is on the wall there in Woman in the Sun. Your eye makes sense of the light falling equidistantly from that painting. It doesn't read as incorrect that that painting's the source of light. There's something so wrong about it and you wonder, 'well what is it?' Everything is just wrong about it. This is not a facial expression," she concluded about the woman in the sun. "But it tells you about her," she nodded slyly, "It tells you a great deal."

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