• Detail of On the Day Cy Died (Sleepwalking Limosine) by Julian Schnabel. Printed in full color in Gulf Coast.

The Day Cy Died

Julian Schnabel

On the day Cy Twombly died, I got a telephone call from my daughter Lola who was in Rome. He and I were friends for almost forty years. One of my sons is named Cy. On the day that Cy died it rained. I had been reading The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez, who died last year. The beginning of the book describes in detail the existence of a presence -- mythic, gigantic, who occupied a status that informed nature, architecture, the comings and goings of all those, large and small, animal and human, who might have thought they'd seen a glimpse of him. And the physical fact that used to be him was left buried by time and stuff on the floor of the palace, described in versions of human configurations -- so simple and so inept in filling the gaping hole that was left by the absence of a force that colored everything which spoke to my need to make a physical record of Cy's departure; and the sense of emptiness that could only be embodied for me by paint and material. I still had fragments of crosses of green army tarpaulins that had covered trucks or other army vehicles -- bits of green tents that were hobbled together to make four crosses and one horizontal painting, all to Cy. On the day Cy died I went outside in the rain with a mop and some gallons of gesso and covered part of each one with a white form that, to me, became the emblem of Cy's transfiguration into the ether of time or timelessness, who knows which. I selected five fragments from Márquez's novel to accompany the painted surrogates for Cy's body -- Cows Nibbling on the Trim of Velvet Chairs, His Right Arm Bent Under His Head as a Pillow, Lunar Dust Covered Rose Bushes, Sunday Lunch Interrupted by Panic, and Sleepwalking Limousine. These titles sounded like would-be scenes from the movie of Cy's life. 

It was a good time to be a painter, living in the world at the same time as Cy.   

Cy's work has so much to do with the love of words and how they conjure up narratives and forms, beyond words, that become the personification of the painted celestial drama that he breathed into the world.