I used to go to Kinko’s almost every day to get prints made. In the sea of blue smocked people, I always hoped I would get Gene. Gene was not really better at making anything. The machines did what they did, and not one Kinko’s employee could really make a giant difference in the print. But he did make a difference in my time. If you broke him down, it would be “character actor” interesting attractive at best. But he was kind. He was kind in a way that was such a relief. I would stand in line and count the people in front of me and estimate what each person was doing… how many blue smocks were behind the counter, and calculate my chances… business card, business card, black and white copies, 3 fold flyer, four people, two behind Gene, fingers crossed… and then on my best Kinko’s days, I would step up to the bald headed, 60 year old man, with the widest smile.. “Hi sunshine,” he’d say, and I was saved. For a few brief minutes, while the prints were being made, Gene and I would talk about art and poetry and music, and the it was like Yves Klein himself changed the color of his Kinko’s uniform from blue – to blue!* “You remind me of something I read,” he often lead with this. It was nice to remind someone of something. Like they were actually giving thought to you… that you weren’t just a number in line. “I read ‘Savage Beauty.’” Georgia O’Keeffe writes a letter to Edna St. Vincent Millay. She talks of how meeting her was like when she held a hummingbird in her hand.” She writes… “When I had it in my hand it was so small I couldn’t believe I had it–but I could feel the intense life–so intense and so tiny–…You were like the humming bird to me…And I am rather inclined to feel that you and I know the best part of one another without spending much time together–” “That’s how I feel about you,” he said. “You are my hummingbird in line.” Standing in front of the Kinko’s counter, never closer than three feet from Gene – (I don’t even know his last name) – I was touched. I was connected. I was alive.
It would be easy to say that today’s world doesn’t allow this sort of intimacy. That the convenience of the electronic world has taken that away. But that’s too easy. The world allows what we allow it. It is still as open and possible as it ever was. This is the intimacy I want to have, that I want to share. We can share this. We can be open faces and open hands. We can be quick beating hearts on hummingbird wings. We can be intensely alive. I want to be intensely alive.
Today you will be a hummingbird, or the hands that hold it… be delicate either way.
*Monochrome abstraction—the use of one color over an entire canvas—has been a strategy adopted by many painters wishing to challenge expectations of what an image can and should represent. Klein likened monochrome painting to an “open window to freedom.” He worked with a chemist to develop his own particular brand of blue. Made from pure color pigment and a binding medium, it is called International Klein Blue. Klein adopted this hue as a means of evoking the immateriality and boundlessness of his own particular utopian vision of the world.