I went to New York City on Thursday. After my business meeting I made a side trip to the Hauser & Wirth gallery at 32 East 69th Street to see the exhibit of Ida Applebroog’s drawings that I’d read about in the New York Times.
The drawings are terrific –fragile, exciting, simple and beautiful. And so is her story. Now in her 70’s Appplebroog began making art in her twenties. But for many years she was also a wife and mother living unhappily in San Diego. The catalog article says that she was depressed and in order to claim a tiny slice of artistic life for herself in the midst of raising kids she, each night, after kids were in bed and she had a tiny bit of time alone, she locked herself in the bathroom, sat in the tub and drew in her sketchbook. For more than 150 nights she drew a self portrait—a quick sketch—of her crotch. It was an exercise to keep herself drawing.
30 years later, kids grown and Ida back to New York City, boxes from storage are unpacked and there are the drawings of labia. They were never interned for display but when unpacked and seen as a group it was impressive. Also impressive were the water stains—unintentional—from storage, but also connecting these drawings with their original setting, the bath tub.
The drawings are now collected and displayed. Some of them were scanned and manipulated to become walls of a paper house also part of the installation at Hauser & Wirth.
It is a powerful exhibit. A woman who kept herself alive as an artist and who even in the hardest times did a tiny bit of art each day—a few lines, a sketch of herself, her body. Here is libido in the clearest sense. The body that gave birth also kept the art and artist alive.
One a day, a tiny bit, a moment’s investment, a private sketch and a life in art now celebrated in public.