Pamela Harris

Posts in the Drawing Category

New Show July 12, 2015

It's been going well in the studio. I go through spurts where every drawing works out and I've been in that process.

It actually never goes not well. My attitude is however it's going is how it's going. I've been doing it long enough to get satisfaction from it, no matter what. Writing is much more frustrating. Though also immensely satisfying.

Over the last few months I've had some new people coming through my studio. I'm in a show that opened yesterday at the Amy Simon Gallery and it seems to be going well so far. I like showing and it's nice to be back out there. The show will be up through August.

Time Inc. March 31, 2013

When my second job ended I was still financially at zero and needed to get a job quick. This time I didn't look for entry level and instead looked for anything that hinted at creative. Four days into my search I saw an ad for a scanner operator at Time Inc. Fuck, man. Time Inc. Imagine working there. Maybe I could work there. Why couldn't I work there. I was going to work there.

The scanner operator at my old job talked a lot about what he did and I started thinking about the language he used. I realized I knew enough to bullshit my way in to an interview. I tweaked my resume, sent it over to Rockefeller Center and two weeks later got a call. I put my one suit on with shoes and purse that matched and I went to the interview.

The person I was meeting with was in the Ad Center, a branch of Time Inc. that was in the basement. When I got there he put his hand out and I shook it and started talking. "I don't know much about scanning," I said, then my eyes started rolling around crazy. "I really want to work here. My last job was at an imaging house and I know how to do everything else it says on my resume. I read 'What Color Is My Parachute' and I'm willing to work hard and do whatever it takes and the two companies I've worked for so far have gone out of business -- Oh! Scitex backed the second one and even though the owner took off with their money they liked him!" He wrote something down, then smiled. We stared at each other and I saw he wasn't annoyed that I lied. I asked, "Do my skills fit anywhere?" He nodded and made a phone call. What I heard sounded like the parents from Peanuts: "Whah wah, wah wah wah." A minute later he led me down a hall to a cubicle. "Good luck," he said. "I hope you get the job."

It took five interviews: Peggy thought I'd be great but Alan didn't think I was the 'right stuff.' Everyone at Time Inc. was Ivy or had something stellar going for them, and my family's only claim to notoriety was when my uncle stood in the middle of Chinatown in Boston, shit his pants and yelled "I am NOT a homosexual!" Peggy prevailed and I got a job as a production assistant working at People Magazine.

The job was pure grunt: I was to check in advertising materials, log them into a computer and send the 4-color film to production to make sure it matched the color chrome the advertiser sent along. Each weekly magazine - People, Sports Illustrated and Time - had a team of four that worked side by side in an open plan office, across from cubicles filled with Team Leaders.

All of us, leaders and peons, were the misfit toy section of Time Inc. We were a posse relegated to the basement, made up of a compulsive masturbator (Brown); an he's-not-out-of-the-closet compulsive shopper (Yale); a 6' 5" female college basketball star (U of Texas) who wore skirts and tube socks; a Harvard grad who got lost every time he left the building; the son of a very famous Talmud scholar (Brown); a relative of Jimi Hendrix (Middlebury); a U of Penn PHD who's left breast was bigger than her right and asked me every day if I could tell (I couldn't); a pothead who loved heavy metal (his dad ran a printing plant Time Inc. used); and my boss, Mario, a 90-pound impeccably dressed weakling who was a virtuoso pianist.

A retarded monkey could do our jobs and we pissed the day away telling stories. "In college I worked in a custom shirt shop," Mario would begin. He grew up in blue collar CT and had put himself through Juilliard. "One day a Sheik came in with an entourage of 20. I closed the store for him and then presented our dress shirts as well as cuff and collar options. The Sheik chose 30 of every style I suggested." Mario chuckled. "Which were all our styles. I then went high into drawers, low into drawers pulling out all of our very best ties. He bought 7 of every tie." Mario wrung his hands, excited. "My boss watched from the doorway and I could tell he was pleased. When I rang up the sale, the total was over $35,000. It was the biggest sale we had ever had." Mario pulled a glucose monitor out of his shirt pocket and stuck his finger in it. He was a severe diabetic and had to test his blood frequently. "I carefully wrapped a tie for the Sheik - everything else would be shipped. I helped him and his entourage into a line of Rolls Royces outside, and when I went back into the store my boss came over and put his hand on my shoulder. I was ready for the accolades." Mario looked at his glucose number. "My boss looked into my eyes and said 'Mario.' I look at him, feeling nothing but love. I said, 'Was that spectacular?' My boss put his other hand on my shoulder. 'Mario,' he said. 'You didn't sell him the pin dot tie.' " Mario nodded his head to drive home the point then jerked up his shirt. He pulled a syringe out of his other pocket and stabbed himself in the stomach. "Who wants to go smoke," he said.

(Years later, long after I left, Time Warner purchased the above drawing on the left in 2004.)

Scooter Pie November 27, 2012

Last week I was cleaning out folders and found an old drawing I did in college of a riderless horse. The horse was saddled up and waiting, its head hung low. The image made me think of me and my dad, way back when I was twelve. When my mother and sister would fight we’d head for the end of the driveway where he'd smoke and I'd hang around next to him. There we'd be, the both of us, saddled up and waiting.

Back then, after my father moved out, two months after I bought my first pack of cigarettes, he moved back in. My parents started going out six nights a week and though I barely saw my dad something had changed. He was quieter, more mournful, distracted. “Want to go play Skee-Ball?” I’d ask and he’d point into the ether, toward a phantom somewhere he had to be. My mother was in a great mood from their non-stop whirl of dinner parties, but with him I was feeling left out. Was it me?

My sister Shelley was also out and I was left with huge chunks of time in an empty house. I was halfway through the sixth grade, still a straight A student, and I’d study, practice my cello, write in my journal, read and smoke.

Late one afternoon I tucked my cigarettes into my sock and went for a ride on my bike. I had been so caught up in school I had forgotten the pleasure of cruising the neighborhood. I pedaled to the end of my street then zigzagged onto the next, past the Craft house. The Crafts had just bought the White's house, a neat extended ranch that was cocooned by perfectly manicured shrubs. I hadn't met the Crafts yet but knew they had a bunch of girls and a boy and one of the girls, Janet, was only a year older than me. As I slowly rode by a voice from a back bedroom said, “You're a Harris, right?” I stopped and tried to see who was speaking to me.

"I’m Janet. Your sister's cool. Come in the front."

She noticed me. I had seen her in the woods behind the Junior High, near the sixth grade building, but my friends were twelve like me, not thirteen like her. I nervously parked my bike.

I knocked on the front door and waited. Nobody answered so I cautiously let myself in. I entered a foyer that was part of a living room that was empty except for a broken three-legged chair. Maybe their furniture hadn't come yet. A wooden Christ hung crooked on the wall and a tattered Duraflame sat half-cocked in the fireplace. Hot pink carpeting, worn and stained near the kitchen, covered the floor. “Hello?' I said and waited a respectful amount of time for someone to show. No one did, so I followed the hot pink carpeting down the hall. As I passed the first bedroom a little blond girl came screaming out of it.

“Jinx ate Mr. Bubbles and Scooter Pie!” She ran into the kitchen and I saw her scramble over a picnic table and disappear into a room beyond it. Howling laughter came from the bedroom she ran out of and I anxiously looked in. The Craft boy contorted with hilarity as he pointed at an aquarium that had housed something furry, not fishy. My radar said gerbil. A black cat sat next to the cage licking its paws and I hesitantly looked closer at the aquarium. There on the bottom sat a little pile of gerbil paws and tails, with nothing in between. I backed out of the room and hurried down the hall.

Janet's bedroom was the last on the right and I knocked even though the door was open. She laughed at my politeness and waved me in. Though she was only a year ahead of me she seemed twenty with her curvy, bursting flesh, her older girl clothes, and the way she confidently twirled her waist length hair around her finger. She was curled up on a hot pink window seat smoking a Marlboro as she paged through Cosmopolitan magazine. I mentally chucked my trolls and stuffed animals under my bed. Janet waved me over and offered me a cigarette. She could smoke out in the open? She laughed as if reading my mind and held the pack out. I took a cigarette, lit up, and as she went back to her magazine I took in her room.

The window seat was part of a white Formica built-in that wrapped halfway around the room. Every draw in it was open, clothes stuttering to the floor. Plastic pink lip gloss, blush, pale foundation, blue eye-liner, eye lash curlers and mascara fell over the countertop, into the drawers, onto more pink carpeting. Two double beds, one sheet-less, the other a jumbled mess shared a faded dresser covered in sparkly jewelry. Nearby, a large closet was missing its doors and I saw wreckage piled waist high. The clothing rod had fallen down, or perhaps had never been put up.

Who were these people? My room was neat, thanks to my mother. I didn't know how many Crafts shared the bras, high heels, lacey under things and shiny bits that hung everywhere. There was something forbidden in that room, the same forbidden that smoking held. As I tried to make out what a green shimmery thing was Janet glanced at it. "Go ahead. Try it on."

She got up and twisted the green thing into a skimpy top. "Thank you, but that's okay." I didn't want to try it on.

"Go on. If it fits you can have it. It's my sister's."

I didn't want to try it on because Janet was easily a 'C' cup and I was still in a training bra. A training bra that, until a week prior, I had been wearing backwards. (A training bra is like a camisole that stops mid-chest. It’s wider in the front than the back. My pediatrician, Dr. Goldberg, kindly suggested that wearing it the other way around might be more comfortable.)

Janet was still waiting for me to respond. "Really, thank you, but that's okay." She smiled like a cat that just ate a gerbil and slinked back onto the window seat. I tapped my cigarette out. "Thank you for the cigarette."

She looked at me, amused. "See you at school," she said and I quickly exited.

I wasn't ready to process paws and tails, but heels and bras and all that glamour shimmied before me. It’s not that it appealed to me; it was that it existed, right here in my neighborhood.

I rode home and my dad was sitting in the den, smoking. He was dressed to go out and as I plopped down next to him my mother entered, dressed up in heels. My father quickly stood. "You look beautiful."

She smiled her thanks then turned to me. "Did you see your sister?" I shook my head. "Her boyfriend is not to come in this house. There's chicken in the fridge, brownies in the freezer, and please pick up your shoes." My father helped her into her coat and escorted her out. He didn’t look back and wink like he used to, even as I watched him drive away. What was going on here?

I moved to the other side of the couch, into his seat, and pulled a cigarette from my sock. For the first time ever I smoked a cigarette in the den. It felt like what adult must feel like: I'm just smoking in the den with my shoes off, watching TV. I rubbed my feet the way my dad did when he came home and pondered Janet's bedroom. Maybe all that glamour did appeal to me. Growing up was getting interesting. I couldn't wait to be thirteen.