Franz Kline Pilgrimage, November 5, 2014

On my birthday (in September)  I entered some alternate reality where I, Ariel Davis, am in a committed, healthy relationship. I haven’t been in a relationship since 2009. This is foreign territory – I have a man who responds to my text messages. I don’t have to worry my weeks away planning for first dates that dissipate before second dates, nor the perfectly written first text message. No longer do I have to look at faces on the train or scour Craigslist “Missed Connections.” My weekends now are all about spending time with Bo. Our schedules together make for full weekends with friends, dinners, lunches, and walks. It’s an idyllic way to live.

But I began last week with a tinge of sadness. Bo threw a Halloween party and directly following, I began to suffer a bout of malaise. Change is great (sometimes) but it also comes with a strange unsettling feeling. I haven’t gotten used to this “new Ariel” just yet, I’m not used to feeling so…coupled. So last week, I decided that I needed to remind myself exactly who I was and all the things that I loved. I leaned back in my office chair Halloween night, and knew the answer immediately. I would need to go to MOMA.

My first year in the city (2008) was like balancing on a teeter totter. I was thrilled about being in New York, the city made me feel alive (and still does). Yet, I was waging war with depression. When spring came that year, I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art alone on one of their Free Friday’s. I cried the entire walk over. I must have still looked sad when I arrived at the museum, a security guard at the permanent collection asked me if was OK, and I said that I was.

I stumbled through a bunch of Pollock’s and landed unexpectedly at Franz Kline’s “Chief”. Its a blocky, dark, work, that I would later describe in my old blog as: “twisted and complex, speaking without speaking at all.” Before I moved to the city, I had seen Kline’s work in Vogue Living magazine. I’d written his name down and tore out the page. I didn’t know he had anything up at MoMA, so running into it felt magical. I would also write later that “Franz Kline saved the day.” It was the remedy I needed, and the same remedy I wanted last Friday night.

So Halloween night after work I walked west to the museum, grabbed a ticket and went inside. I saw the Toulouse-Lautrec prints, then the Robert Gober show. The Matisse cut-outs were sold out.

I had thirty minutes left before closing so I raced upstairs. The usual tourists were there oogling “Starry, Starry Night,” rolling their eyes at Twombly and Pollack -- “I could make this” – and instagramming the Ruscha “Oof”.  I followed my gut and kept turning corners till I met Mr. Kline again. The last time I saw it, I was 24 years old. Now I’m 30. Time flies, but being in the environment helped me to tap into my 24-year-old self. The person I thought was slipping out of my hands. Even though I was sad on that day a long time ago, I was happy, too.

After the museum closed I continued further west. Bo and I had reservations at a dinner theatre show. I arrived early and waited for him outside. Most of the people passing were dressed in Halloween costumes, but I was glad I skipped dressing up. I looked down at myself: I was wearing jeans, boots and a coat, quite content with knowing just who I was being Ariel Davis for the night.