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Angela Dufresne / Diane Seuss



Rev. Matthew William Peters
English, 1742–1814
Lydia, ca. 1776

Oil on canvas
63.5 × 76.2 cm. (25 × 30 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Guy Fairfax Cary 62.009



Painting of a very light-skinned young woman, lying in bed, making intense, suggestive eye contact with the viewer. Her breasts are exposed and she wears a pink and white headcovering.



Angela Dufresne

I guess you’ve come to examine me? But it’s too late. I’m already dead. In fact, the forces that came together to produce me lack mitochondria so I can’t breathe, but that’s because my maker, not Marquis de Sade . . . rather Mr. rev MW Peters—Penis—didn’t really love me and didn’t let me live beyond the sign level. He regretted me later—the fucking coward. It was the enlightenment period so I don’t get why he became so pious, but I suppose science never solves our problems fast enough to kill god, so there you go. . . . Anyway. Sex was made rational in me. EVERYBODY knows my nipples should produce a particular effect. Rev. Peters is just reminding you of the facts—I’m symbolic, darling. It’s also because it’s Independence Day in America when I was born dead. (Will Smith wasn’t there because it was the first one in 1776 and I’m a British whore [or a wife?]. I also had my head cobbled back together by Peters though it didn’t really work, having been pummeled by something—maybe it was my headwrap itself? Maybe it was the Aliens? Or maybe it was St. Paul when he converted my Judaism to Christianity? That had to be it, I was living in Philippi when I met Paul on his second missionary journey and he wouldn’t take no for an answer—No is Yes you know. I’m the first recorded convert to Christianity in Europe, another Independence Day, perhaps  not?) Regardless, I’m a copy, you can tell from my smile. My original self is in the British museum, no it’s the National museum, NO WAIT!—it’s in the Tate! In that “original” iteration my features actually almost align to the structure of my “skull.” I’m almost human, not that anyone ever offered me a skull. I’ll never reach full human because I’ll never make it to subject status—the subject here isn’t me, it’s HIM! Typical. Still, there is an inner life here, even without the skull? That makes me post-human, which makes me very of the moment, and for that I’m glad. Here in this copy my features are projected onto an orb form like a Tony Oursler video sculpture—in fact I’m the origin of Tony Oursler, not that anyone cares. But no one scripted what I’m saying or made a voice track for me so my interior is unknowable . . . like other supernatural beings. If you stay here long enough, no amount of analysis will save you from the deprivation my awareness will transfer onto you. Because I’m endless, I cycle through everything, and I’m masturbating the entire time—and no—I’m not thinking about you. You will NEVER know what I’m thinking—forever.



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Painting of a very light-skinned young woman, lying in bed, making intense, suggestive eye contact with the viewer. Her breasts are exposed and she wears a pink and white headcovering.

Diane Seuss

Lydia (ca. 1776)

I have been, in my own time, a consumable,
hung by the Lord behind a curtain, gleaming
revelation out of the swirls and folds. I came
so close to the courtesan life, not for cash,
but because the john called me beautiful.


Still, I went back to my job as a typist
after buying a Milky Way. Once, digging
mussels in Long Island Sound, I came
upon a sea snail—a whelk. The twisted
spire, the skirt, the whorl, and the ugly animal


exposed, foot, mouth, eye. Don’t ask me why
I took it home, boiled and ate it. Lydia.
Maybe all work is sex work. It’s unfigurable.
There is something unfigurable about you.
Something askance in you.


Your missing eyebrows. The frizz
of your hair battened by ribbons.
If I look at you straight-on without tipping
my head, the vertical of your eyes bisects
the horizontal of mine. We make a courtesan


crucifix in mid-air. But that’s not really it,
is it? What is beneath the covers?
Where is your right hand?
Do you have a right hand? A lower half?
A brain, a mind? Can you imagine yourself


beyond this single dimension?
Are you more than a provocation? Feral grin.
Unscarred breasts, nipples aligned, a theory
of nipples, not nipples themselves.
Skin whiter than a pillowcase. Whiteness


as whiteness dreams itself. Map of the sinister
world unscathed. What of the dark behind you?
Does it love you? Of course it doesn’t love you.
Paint does not love. Painters don’t love.
They paint their shame. Then become ministers.



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