American artist Jim Dine, who hails from my natal state of Ohio and is still making art at 74, loves bathrobes -- at least as inspiration for his work. (That's one of his many prints above). According to a recent explanation from a Wake Forest University website,
Jim Dine first used the image of a man's bathrobe, with the man airbrushed out of it, to create a self-portrait in 1964. Working from that same ad clipped out of the NY Times, he has repeated the theme of himself as an unseen figure in a robe ever since. "The ad shows a robe," said Dine, " it somehow looked like me, and I thought I'd make that a symbol for me."I love that: "a symbol for me."
I love that the man was airbrushed out of it. Bathrobe as existential device....in a proper bathrobe, in a dark and seemingly endless winter you can, maybe, forget you exist, tune out all the vicissitudes of life, and hide yourself in the soft contours of a big thick yardage of raiment. You could hibernate in there.
In general I love Jim Dine -- his 1995 documentary "JIm Dine: A Self-Portrait on the Walls" in which he creates huge charcoal drawings of trees and crows and an amazing self-portrait on the walls of an empty German castle (at one point using a large chunk of thick bread to nubble in some texture) and then paints over them six weeks later, is one of my all-time favorite statements about art. The 30-min gem was nominated for an Academy Award but didn't win.
But back to bathrobes. It's Jan. 25, for chrissakes, and it was four degrees when I reluctantly pulled myself out of bed today just in time to feed the cats, nuke up a cup of hot green tea, get the paper off the porch and settle down to switch back and forth between Meet the Press and This Week with George S. It has now spiked to six degrees, I see. The cats, released from their nightime basement hostel, seem comatose as the furnace cranks into action. I feel a bit comatose, too, but it's probably the tranquilizers I've recently taken to, which by the way I think are a fine idea for getting through a Midwestern winter.
And I'm in my bathrobe -- a big thick "authentic" St. John's Bay model -- though hecho in Taiwan, I see -- 100 percent polyester (my hasn't polyester improved over the years -- this feels soft as lambswool and is eminently washable). It's a man's bathrobe, L/XL, or, as it alternately says, G/XG which I take to mean "grande," like a Starbucks coffee. Or perhaps "gros." It is a navy and dark green plaid and has a thick belt that always gets tangled up with the jeans and towels in the dryer. I bought this robe for Ted, but either he doesn't like it (preferring the equally thick white number my sister-in-law bought him, that reminds him of the time we blew $700/night at Ventana Inn in Big Sur and had a lot of sex) or understands that from the begining, I loved the way this bathrobe encases my body so much that it was useless for him to claim it.
So here's to bathrobes, to Jim Dine, and to surviving January in Michigan with whatever resources we can muster. There is no sense having any ambition in this climate, except to sleep and stay warm. My strategy: stay in the damn bathrobe as long as possible. Maybe until May.