I am hanging out with my friend Coco in SoHo, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan to anyone unfamiliar with this island. SoHo means South of Houston Street, and Houston is pronounced like Mouse-ton with an h, not like the city in Texas, or the movie director, John Huston, Anjelica Huston’s dad. Eagle-eyed Milton took this gotcha shot of Anjelica last year with his iPhone when we were people watching outside the New York Film Festival.
Fast forward back to the present, Coco and I are walking south on West Broadway, a street rife with expensive boutiques I never enter and art galleries that can be interesting. Coco is very excited because she wants me to see something. She’s walking so fast, she’s almost jogging; she cannot wait for me to see this sight. She stands in front of a window, antsy.
Coco: You’ve got to see this!
My reflexes are a tad perverse. I look at the window right across from me, into a salon. I look back at her quizzically.
Coco (insistent): Look here! In this window!
Coco resists banging her head on the pavement. If she is thinking something rude about the inefficiency of my ability to comprehend, she resists mentioning it out loud. I walk over to join her outside the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery barking:
Coco smiles devilishly. I see it: a lifelike sculpture by artist Shen Shaomin of a hag who checked her modesty at the door. She’s sitting naked as a jaybird on a deck chair sunning herself. It’s called, I Want to Know What Infinity Is.
Is this, the artist’s rendition of what a woman who lives to be older than dirt can anticipate — catching rays and forgetting about wearing a bathing suit? Am I looking at myself in approximately 50 years? Will my flab be overcome with sag? I update the grocery list in my mind:
Mental grocery list: bananas, pita bread, yogurt, someone who’ll still love me when I’m completely decrepit and will ensure that I’m always clad.
Coco is marveling at the sculpture’s stick thin calves and how gravity has taken such a toll on the breasts. Until my friend mentions that the two dark pointy nubs are actually nipples, I did not realize that those were breasts draped on the sides over the ribs. I assumed that I was looking at leathery flesh dotted with buttons. Because I have a few decades on my pal, and I’m much closer to looking like this withered snoozing crone than she, and that is not a comforting thought.
I wonder if there is someone out there that would actually buy this sculpture and display it in his or her house? It would be quite a conversation piece:
Sculpture Owner: Someone else bought Munch’s The Scream. That was when we decided to go in a completely other direction.
Shen’s even equipped this sculpture with a motor to make it appear to be breathing. I’m not sure how many D batteries are required nor do I know if they’re included with purchase
Foot traffic continues to move at a steady pace past the gallery. Let’s face facts; New York City pedestrians come very close to having seen it all.
Across the street, something even more shocking than this silica gel replica of a naked centenarian catches my eye. Once again, I’m completely captivated.
I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a TV antenna in the thirty years that I’ve lived in Manhattan. It’s possible that I’ve never seen one here until this very day.
Me: Coco! Look up there!
I point. Coco looks up. It’s her turn to look at me quizzically.
Me: Who still has a TV antenna in Manhattan in the year 2013?
Coco ignores my question and returns her attention to the sculpture.
Coco: Look, she even has a bunion on her foot!
To see more of Shen’s fascinating, freaky and disturbing work, click on this link. As with the elderly woman sculpture the animals in the series I Sleep On Top of Myself are motorized to appear to be breathing. As my grandmother would say:
Lame Granny: What will they think of next?
In Shen’s case, maybe we don’t want to know, but I imagine that if I saw it, I would not be able to look away.