Ruth Kligman was a very sexy woman well into her 70s. She could walk into any room and stop things in their tracks. She exuded danger and a forbidden appeal. She was "the woman in the car," notorious since Aug. 11, 1956, for being the third passenger in the crash that killed Jackson Pollock -- her lover -- and an acquaintance, Edith Metzger.
Many was the time Ruth would come up to me, fix me with her special stare and say, always with the same words, "Don't you want to talk to me?" It seemed strange that, in the wanton world of art, a woman could be branded automatically, universally, in the collective mind, like Hester Prynne. Carl Andre, however murkily, got a different kind of brand. Warhol, who had a lot of blood on his hands (Eric Emerson, Jane Forth, etc.), always sidestepped the mark.
Ruth was guilty of nothing, except for a magnetism which was a big part, and often the only part, of what women were about in bohemian/puritan America: a plump fish painfully caught on the lure of allure. In its obituary of Ruth, the New York Times called her a "muse" to the Cedar Bar crowd, a euphemism is search of a better word.
Ruth was the humanity those gods of the brush sorely lacked, the athletic, proud Europa to their slovenly, sloppy bull. It was a special kind of hell and she wore it well. What price does Fate ask of us when we say, "Remember my name?"
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).