She was there. Sketching Degas and his dancers, Paris, 1870s-1890s. (In process).

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Sketch of me dressed as a dancer sketching Degas’s dancers. Graphite, India ink, watercolour, and chalk on paper. 11″ x 15″ ©2017 Mary Khan
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Edgar Degas, Dancer with a Fan (study), c.1895 – c.1900

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At age fourteen, after seeing the drawings of young dancers (who were around the same age as me) by Edgar Degas, I immediately made the decision to become a draughtswoman. I was struck by the artist’s strong lines, movement, light, angles, and distinct use of colour. I identified with the girls both through my own physical embodiment – my light frame, my thin arms and legs – and as a burgeoning artist. I intrinsically felt my marks on paper were interconnected to his. Years later, when studying 19th century art history, I learnt of the harsh reality of survival for the dancers and the complicated role the artist played in depicting them. I am currently working on a group of drawings within my series “She was there.,” related to my lifelong admiration for and struggle with these beautiful works.

She was there. With Chet Baker at the Hotel Universo, Room 15, in Lucca, Italy, 1961.

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But we soon found ourselves also turning backward, for the beautiful faces and songs that lift us forward onto new ground keep calling out to us as well, inciting us to rediscover and recover them in whatever new thing gets made. -Elaine Scarry

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For this piece, I have included the Italian lyrics to Chetty’s Lullaby, released as a single in 1962.

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Maybe it was because of the summer solstice, or because it was such a warm, breezy day, but the drawing of this piece felt blissful at times. Listening to Chet is Back! (1962) on a loop probably helped.
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Chetty’s Lullaby was released as a vinyl 7″ 45 single in 1962.
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Some lyrics from Chetty’s Lullaby (1962). Composed by Chet Baker, lyrics by Pino Maffei.
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In the drawing, I am reading this passage from “Memory” by Adrienne Rich, 1979. It is from Rich’s A Wild Patience has Taken Me this Far (1981).
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My hair, dress, and eyebrows in the drawing were inspired by this shot of Elizabeth Taylor in Rome, Italy, 1961. Photo Shaw Family Archives.
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Original photograph Archivo Cameraphoto Epoche, 1961.

When I say hear, I mean follow a horn player through his ideas, and be able to understand those ideas in relation to the changes. -Chet Baker

Graphite, chalk, watercolour, ink, and lipstick on paper. 24″ x 36″. Finished work. ©2017 Mary Khan.

She was there. Smoking a cigarette with Frida Kahlo, circa 1940s. 

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Graphite, soft pastel, watercolour, and lipstick on paper. 24″ x 36″. Original photograph Bettmann archive. ©2017 Mary Khan

Dear Frida,

Thank you for the gold, silver, diamonds,

and turquoise.

Paintings and jewels.

Paint anything, anyone.

Paint in triplicate if you have to.

Paint for me, for you, Diego and the universe.

Yours,

Mary

She was there. With my mother in 1969, the summer before I was born. (In process).

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Graphite on paper. 24″ x 36″. ©2017 Mary Khan

Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement. -Adrienne Rich

She was there. With Miles Davis at Columbia 30th Street Studio for the recording sessions of Kind of Blue, April/May 1959.

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She was there. With Miles Davis at Columbia 30th Street Studios for the recording sessions of Kind of Blue. NYC, New York, April/May 1959. Drawing inspired from original photograph by Don Hunstein, 1959. This shot features Bill Evans on piano. Drawing ©2017 Mary Khan

Iconic, larger than life. Kind of Blue considered a masterpiece of modern music. Modal jazz, flowing improvisation, one take recordings. Racism, misogyny, eccentricity. Tenderness, eloquence, elegance. Subtlety. Social biases with regards to male and female artists. All of these manifest in the mythology surrounding Miles Davis.

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Graphite, chalk, and watercolour on paper. 24″ x 36″. Finished work.  ©2017 Mary Khan.

Original photograph of Miles Davis and Bill Evans by Don Hunstein, 1959.

I kept thinking about Cisely Tyson hiding in the basement of her house while the police were upstairs laughing with Miles. I wondered what she was thinking about, crouched down there in the darkness. I wondered if thinking about his genius made her less frightened and humiliated…

I wondered if she tried to remember the last time she had known a brother whose genius was not in the way he played a horn, or made a living or ran a city, but in the way he loved her…

So the question is: How can they hit us and still be our heroes? And the question is: How can they hit us and still be our leaders? Our husbands? Our lovers? Our geniuses? Our friends?

Pearl Cleage, excerpt from Mad at Miles, 1990

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Obviously had to add blue to the piece.
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Pink. This hue is love and Miles is king. Jazz is love. Jazz is king. Jazz is the sound of integrity.

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Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances.  — Bill Evans, Liner notes on Kind of Blue, 1959.
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The decision to deliberately make myself small (along with the choice to tilt my head and wear my hair in an updo) was inspired from the painting Frida and Diego by Frida Kahlo, 1931