I once knew a woman who lived on 22nd Street. She was alone for most of her life. Men had come and gone, and she had loved them sadly in her turn, but as an artist she was not able to give them the full attention that lovers so often desire. Her heart was in her work.

She was a glass blower, one of the last great mechanical artisans, able to shape glass into a myriad of pattern and sculpture. She progressed beyond all her peers and made a fair trade at it, and gave herself to it, and focused herself on it. And no one will ever say that she was not great, for she sacrificed everything else that was great inside her to create the greatness without.

My favorite piece of hers, before she died, was a self portrait. It was her old body, bent by age, her joints swollen, naked and wilting. Inside the sculpture were her organs, liver and intestine, kidneys and trails of veins, all in glass, all stacked where they were supposed to be. And the heart alone was blown out of proportion, and stained a bright blue.

One can view the sculpture from any angle and watch the sunlight dance inside the achromatic skin, the lungs and downturned lips. And that blue is always twinkling, like a sea sprinkled with silver seen from far away. Yes, sometimes artists can be obvious with their symbols, but at the end of the day it’s still beautiful, and the truth does not change.

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