I first met Linda at Nan Rosenthal’s New Year’s Eve party in 2003. She was ensconced on a divan in the middle of the living room, her hair was hot pink, and she was the only person in the room who had any interest in speaking with a young person. I was working at the Metropolitan Museum my first year out of college as Nan’s assistant (writing wall copy and dealing with ashtrays). Soon thereafter, I had the good fortune that Nan was occupied when Linda arrived to see the Manet/Velázquez show. I will never forget that afternoon, as Linda speaks as she writes—all disciplines, genres, poetry, arcane history, music, and the arts are at her fingertips. A conversation about lead white might lead to a point about Manet which could take you to a history of the representation of dogs which could lead into quotations of Ovid.
And then Linda would turn, and say, “What do you think?” and listen. I always have the sense when I am with Linda, as I did that first day that we spent talking, of her very real and genuine interest in others, their viewpoints and the possibilities, intellectual and personal, that can result from this very human interaction. She is a pioneering feminist in art history, the greatest of intellects, a brilliant writer, and a beloved teacher, mother, grandmother, and friend, but above all else she is a humanist.
I studied Linda’s writings in college, my mother read her work in college: Linda has defined generations of feminists, especially in the arts. Her work laid the groundwork for many of the freedoms and advantages I have enjoyed as a woman. Her voice has guided so many in how we think about Modernism, representations of the body, representations of ourselves.
We struck up a friendship over ten years ago, one that has continued with visits in my studio, at galleries and museums, at dance performances, and in Linda’s home, where her two spirited cats tumble around. When I come over, we sit in the living room, under the portrait Phillip Pearlstein painted of her years ago, one that continues to capture her ferocious spirit and unblinking gaze. It is a rare privilege to be able to meet and to get to know one’s heroines and Linda’s generosity of spirit and intellect, her care in mentoring me as a young person, is the kind of support and encouragement through friendship that has sincerely changed my life.
When I began to draw the unsanitized Grimm’s tales, I turned to Linda for guidance, for suggested reading, for conversations about the representations of women in these stories. When I put together the book that pictures thirty-six of these dark fairy tales, which accompanies my exhibition at the Drawing Center and the Blanton Museum, I asked Linda if she would contribute an essay. This essay will mark one of the later pieces of writing in her just-released anthology.
Without hesitation, she wrote a riling essay about my Little Red Cap drawings and the history of the use of the fairy tale in art. But, typically for Linda, she didn’t stop there. One day, unexpectedly, I received an erotic poem that she was inspired to write, based on my Grimm drawings. It was accompanied by a blasé note that said: “see attached, XXX.”
NATALIE FRANK is an artist. She lives in New York.