Brigid Polk reflects on the time of Richter’s portrait
SFX: The occasional sound of a Polaroid taking a picture.
Your name is Brigid Berlin. You’re born in Manhattan to a wealthy, privileged family. Presidents visit. Movie stars call.
Your mom wants you thin. She gives you amphetamines. She offers you money for each pound you lose. You remain oversized, and troublesome. The anti-debutante.
You grow up, get married, get divorced. You skip to the other side of town and become part of the underground art scene.
And I met this group of crazies called Rotten Rita, Billy Name, Roger Trudeau, Ondine,
You return happily to those childhood amphetamines. You embarrass your blue-blooded parents. You change your name to Brigid Polk. You find your way to The Factory, to Andy Warhol.
And I went there for the first time and I never left. I mean, the place was a mess, it was disgusting, it was all silver foil walls, it was dirty old couches with no stuffing in them.
You are home.
You take Polaroids day and night. Some say Andy got that idea from you.
SFX: Polaroid with high reverb, echoes
You give a Polaroid of yourself to your friend Gerhard Richter, and he makes a painting of it. This painting. He paints your off-kilter nature, your burning blue eyes, your untamable spirit. And he captures the softness around your edges. It’s you.
This is Gerhard Richter’s Brigid Polk painted in 1971. This oil painting, approximately 40 by 50 inches, is painted on canvas, but its style is so realistic it might be mistaken for a photograph. The central figure is a woman in her twenties who bends sideways, leaning toward the right side of the frame. She has pale white skin and watery blue eyes, and she stares out at the viewer with a direct, challenging expression. She holds her body horizontally so that her eyes are stacked one on top of the other, rather than side by side, and her almost colorless lips form a vertical line. Her light brown hair flops across her head, hanging down nearly to the bottom of the canvas. At the center of the painting’s bottom edge, her left hand reaches up into the frame and her index finger touches her chin. She wears a dark gray T-shirt, and the room around her is quite dark, so the paleness of her features stands out strongly. The upper third of the canvas is mostly gray, a contrast to the detailed treatment of the woman’s face. There’s a suggestion of a painting on the wall at the upper left and a window and lamp on the upper right. But these appear mostly as blurry blocks of light and dark.
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