The Company She Keeps
Left: Woven fabric
Right: Agnes Martin, 'White Flower' (1962)
During the 1950’s, my mother-in-law lived in New York City, in a loft on West Broadway. As a fan of Dawn Powell and Mary McCarthy, there is almost nothing cooler in my imagination than life as a single woman in post-war New York. The clothes, the optimism, the real estate: this was my time, only I wasn’t in it.
You can be sure, however, that if I’d lived in a loft on West Broadway before Anthropologie and Smith & Hawken moved in, you’d never hear the end of it. Naomi isn’t me however, and it was a long time in our acquaintance before I heard about the West Broadway place. At the time, she was working for a Thai silk importer. For reasons I’ve forgotten, it was decided that someone in the company needed to learn how to weave. Naomi was a Parsons graduate, but, more importantly, she lived in a loft. An enormous loom was installed, and a private teacher engaged at the company’s expense to teach Naomi to weave.
She wove one length of fabric, of marled and heathered grey wool. The piece is about 1.5 x 5 metres. A couple of years ago, Naomi gave it to me, unsentimentally, because if I didn’t want it she was going to throw it out. I’ve moved it from California to Ohio to Australia, wondering what I should do with it. A coat? Bolsters? A Fifties-inspired cape? What do you think?
When Naomi moved out of the loft, she sublet it to Agnes Martin. But that’s a whole other story.