The Girl in the Tub
In the Musee D’Orsay, there’s a Degas sculpture, one of three tucked away from their more celebrated sisters. A young woman sprawled in a large bath tub. She’s shame free, which is not the same as shameless. There’s no flirtation in her nakedness. A progenitor of Liebovitz’s milky Whoopi; she’s whimsy.
She exists in the round, there are no cheap seats. Every angle, every perspective, offers a piece of the whole. Thighs, muscles, face, hair pouring over the side. Her left leg, effortlessly crossed over the other, is cradled by her right hand. She doesn’t care that I look; she exists only unto herself. I want to lay in a round bath like this. To care less.
I wonder how my camera can capture her, but give up. Later, I will see no trace of her in the museum shop. Instead, her more celebrated and ethereal sister, the dancer, commands the spotlight.
It is true that the girl dancer, more demure, is still to be looked at. I watch her as well, wonder what she’s thinking. The rivers of her skirt, tulle layers, surprisingly dirty-looking, disappear into her leanness. She is already a portrait, cerebral.
The girl in the tub is flesh, alive, and I think again of trying to film her. But then I imagine myself through her eyes. Most don’t linger, but there’s always that one that stays too long, drinking her in, interrupting the pleasure of her toilette. I think briefly of begging her forgiveness, but am reassured that she has no time for the likes of me.
Annette Van teaches literature, composition, and gender studies and is currently a lecturer at San Francisco State University.
The Ekphrastic Review
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