Jane Freilicher – Painter Among Poets

“In August 1950, Jane Freilicher received a letter from John Ashbery in which he recommended she read Proust’s À la recherché du temps perdu. ‘One of Proust’s most exciting qualities,’ the twenty-three year old wrote to her, ‘is the way he demonstrates how circumstances of one’s life which seem casual and ephemeral can solidify for the rest of one’s life (i.e. Swann’s relation with Odette).’ His prescience is amusing. He had met Freilicher—as he put it, ‘a pretty and somewhat preoccupied dark-haired girl’—because she shared a kitchen in the same apartment building on Third Avenue and 16th Street with Kenneth Koch, a friend of Ashbery’s from Harvard. Koch, visiting his parents in Cincinnati for the summer, had sublet his apartment to Ashbery, and Freilicher let him into the building. The two were, as Koch put it in his later poem ‘A Time Zone,’ immediately ‘Afloat with ironies jokes sensitivities perceptions and sweet swift sophistications.’ Writing six years later to Harry Mathews, Ashbery explained, ‘She [Jane] is probably my favorite person in the world . . . Also everything she says is screamingly funny, although she doesn’t seem to intend it that way and I am always getting her in hot water by laughing at her gags in the presence of people who don’t seem to have noticed any humor going on.’ On meeting Ashbery, Freilicher took her new friend along to the first day of shooting of a film by Rudy Burckhardt, and they both ended up starring in Mounting Tension (1950), along with Larry Rivers and Ann Aikman. The production is a comic, improvisatory enterprise, instinctively tongue-in-cheek in its representation of romance and modern art. Halfway through, we first see Freilicher sitting at her desk with her feet up on the table, reading a detective story, with a portrait of Freud and a stuffed alligator hanging on the wall behind her. This is Madame Frauhauf, a psychoanalyst and solver of problems, who advertises by way of sandwich boards worn by unhappy-looking men. Hearing Rivers’s footsteps on the stairs, Freilicher hides her book, strikes a pose, and sashays across the room to greet him. She is smart and restless, a moll in gainful employment, charmingly assured; first, she adjusts Rivers and his sexual frustrations by a talking cure, then by sheer quackery, and finally by seducing him. Ashbery plays the part of the jock-boyfriend, resentful of Aikman’s sudden enthusiasm for modern art. …”
Jane Freilicher – Painter Among Poets, Explicit as a star by Jenni Quilter
Poetry Magazine: Leave It to Jane by John Ashbery
amazon – Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets

Crosstown View, 1978

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