This painting was done for a project my friend, Paul Benton and I collaborated on. He being a poet, would write poems based on my paintings, and I would paint something based on his poems. The finished project was to be published in a chap book.
Paul’s poem, is reprinted here:
Elegy for Prostitutes Murdered & Dumped Into the Missouri River
I don't know. What is this
long line history extends to us,
a hand that desires
tragedy & loss, like Christ's
bleeding death upon that rigid
chamber of a cross?
& we know how eyes squeeze out
tears, how nostrils quiver,
leak over cankered lips.
What pulls us under? Our
backs pressed so hard
into the deep, green water's flow,
where a poison, & poison's
dream, stutters into a reality of knives:
the jagged sigh breaking
that frozen surface to become one gloved
hand held up to an unknown face;
the blade's quick turn dives
beneath skin, into blood, & beyond.
I can only imagine the tragedy, the agony of their deaths. I don’t want to imagine it, but could envision something for the painting. Death, skeletons, humans are animals, die, decompose, fall apart. I paint a few women, in various degrees of fetid decomposition. Some still wearing their dying day clothes, one holds her dead illegitimate baby, who reaches out for comfort. I feel sad, man’s inhumanity to man and woman.