Nell Tabeata's Studio, Greenwich Village, 1958.
I painted it because of Ruby. She had a bad habit of biting into an apple and then putting it down and biting another when she was a little girl. I used to get angry, but it made Gary laugh and we couldn’t get her to stop doing it. Then Ray said she was hurting the apples, biting and leaving them like that.
I told Ray he was a genius, which he is whether Gary believes me or not. (Sometimes I think Gary is jealous of Ray, of how well he plays his instrument.) Another story—never mind.
Anyway I painted these apples screaming in a basket of blood. Ruby stopped eating them altogether for a while, which made me feel bad. She switched to blood oranges, which are her favorites, she says. She sometimes eats golden apples but hardly ever touches red ones anymore. It’s the oddest thing.
People ask me if my paintings tell stories and I tell them, I don’t know. The stories change, depending on how you look at them. Like the film Rashomon, right?
You know what I mean.
My favorite painting? I’d have to say Madame X. Gary took me to the Metropolitan to see it when I first got to the city. It’s not my style but I just love the way she looks, like she doesn’t give a rap what you think of her. I wish I could be more like that.
Sorry, you mean my stuff, what I like best? No idea. Ray likes the half women in half chairs and Ruby loves the red gash down the middle of a black wall. I like all of them while I’m doing them. Then I want to move on to something else.
I think I have a buyer for the apples here. My friend Chaz is getting stuff lined up for me; I just need to get a few more done so we can have a show. It’s not easy because I have to work part-time at the art store. And you really need time to paint.
I just wish I had the days, so many days when I wake up and think I want to paint something. I get an idea and then I have to go to work… or clean someone’s apartment. I’ve been doing that too lately when Gary loses out on a gig.
Sometimes I worry I’ll never have time, never do anything important like you’d see at the Whitney or the Modern because I have to hold the family together. Gary says not to worry about it, because if you want something bad enough you make it happen. He says that about everything.
If you like this painting, I’ve got another one like it in black and white. Show’s going to be in another month or so. I’ll let you know to stop by.
Basket of Apples: Original Illustration by Jackson Muenster