National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mark and Julia Strand
This portrait of Mark Strand is by the realist painter Philip Pearlstein, who has always resisted abstraction for an almost transparent representational style. Pearlstein’s portrait fits Mark Strand, whose language is precise in its descriptive clarity. Yet just as Pearlstein hints at melancholy in the poet’s expression, Strand’s clarity is in the service of a vision that is disturbing and alienating. The frightening poem "My Life" ends: "I grow into my death. / My life is small / and getting smaller. The world is green. / Nothing is all." One can hardly imagine a more bleak conclusion, yet it is held at bay by the very creative act of making a poem out of such bleakness.