TABLE OF CONTENTS

WILLEM DE KOONING: CLAM DIGGERS, 1964

In this ongoing series, writers are invited to discuss a contemporary work that has special significance for them.
 
Willem de Kooning, Clam Diggers, 1964, oil on paper on composition board,
20 1/2 x 14 1/2". Collection of David Geffen, Los Angeles.

I

It might be the light over Antwerp, the Antwerp

of Peter Paul Rubens.

Antwerp. Ostende. The light over water and sand

from any of umpteen

dank-dismal skies, any of umpteen dreary-drab

northern European

skies. But this is the light over Long Island Sound,

over Springs, East Hampton,

where things are ever so slightly out of focus.

We might be forgiven

for thinking that these, for example, are two glam

hoofers from Las Vegas—

two not-so-glam Vegas hookers, even—

rather than a pair of ladies digging for clams.

II

Rather than a pair of ladies digging for clams

they might be two columns

from an infinitely receding colonnade

of flesh. There’s a dull glint

off the pail, if pail it is, that’s strapped to the back

of one. All’s so opaque

I can’t say if it’s the pail or her tangy cleft

she grabs at with her left

hand which, if it is her left hand, points to the quick

of the matter—the hood

pulled back

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