Some Music, 2016
video performance, digital SLR, 2:22
The subject of Some Music is the relationship between the painter Philip Guston and his wife, Musa McKim. The title derives from McKim’s poem of the same name, whose text was the driving narrative underlying the performance. It is used courtesy of the artists’ only child, Musa Mayer, who wrote Guston’s definitive biography, Night Studio, and was an instrumental adviser on the piece.
McKim was often described by Guston’s friends as “his muse and his conscience.” Noted for her quiet, sweet disposition, McKim’s own feelings about her husband are not precisely recounted, even in her daughter’s intimate biography. Guston’s restlessness, his complete and self-absorptive obsession with his work, she weathered with grace, humor, and without complaint. Once a painter herself, what are construed as the strength and tolerance of a devoted spouse more accurately stemmed from her own intimate understanding and support of Guston’s striving.
Although they collaborated together on murals under the Work Projects Administration, McKim surrendered an active career as an artist after giving birth to their daughter in 1943. Eventually, she would turn to poetry, but her consummate preoccupation as the tireless supporter and aesthetic confidant to Guston filled her life. When she met Guston at the Otis Art School in Los Angeles, her ambitions were very different; but smitten with the painter’s brooding intensity and artistic commitment she sought to entice him with her lettered accounts of an exotic adventurousness spent with her family in Panama. For McKim, who transitioned from urban to rural and back alongside Guston and his career, this work pays credit to her own restless seeking, even as it began and ended with her devotion to her husband.