Two Connected Studios in High-Rise

 Location Chelsea
Price $375,000 (2000/2001) ($900 maintenance)
Square feet 850
Occupant Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (author, Epistemology of the Closet, Between Men; professor of English, CUNY Graduate Center)

Your essay "Is the Rectum Straight?"—a favorite! You are one of the founders of queer theory. Where are all the books? I gave away hundreds to students. I was teaching at Duke, living in a big ranch house. In '98, I was moving to New York and I knew something had to give. I have potlatch fantasies. Potlatch is—Indians in the Northwest have parties where they give away everything. A family might do it every five years. There's a lot of real wealth in terms of their art and weaving. It's not just "This is extra; take it."

You were living then with a male friend. But you have a husband who you haven't lived with since 1972. Though you see each other on weekends. Hal Sedgwick is a professor of visual perception at the SUNY College of Optometry. We got married in '69. We were living in a commune. In '71, I started graduate school at Yale and we started having a commuting relationship. He had a studio in the Village, where he still lives. The house in Durham was big, '60s, full of walls of windows, and it made me very happy to have the permeability of my spousal relations and my friendly relations and my relations with my students. It was just kind of utopian and very gratifying. The whole idea of one family, one mortgage, one social unit just gives me the creeps.

All about Eve: CUNY prof Sedgwick in her Chelsea studio(s)
photo: Jay Muhlin
All about Eve: CUNY prof Sedgwick in her Chelsea studio(s)

Yet you always had the oneness of the one husband you see on weekends. There's an image in Winnicott, the psychologist, of a child being so confident, being held by its mother, it doesn't have to think about primary relationships all the time.

I was telling a friend that living with someone gives a sense of a proscenium, a constant threshold. She yelled, "No, it's not like having a piece of real estate. It's having another will in the same room with you, that doesn't always do what you want it to." Anyway, I believe that true home is in the mind. I've lived in so many places. When I finished graduate school in '75, I bounced around for quite a long time, so I didn't have any external sense of a home and it became very existential or Zen. I'm still like that. The first night in a strange place, I'll have trouble sleeping. The second night, it will feel like where I belong.

I've stripped down my apartment: a bed, a laptop, an alarm clock. It's as if I'm traveling at home. One of the places I lived was outside Utica. I had taken 10 days of vacation. I got back, started looking for a cookbook. I couldn't find it. It was perfectly easy for me to believe I didn't have cookbooks. I had no object permanence. It's a term from Piaget, the developmental psychologist.

Your family home: Dayton then Bethesda. It's all in your book A Dialogue on Love, which I almost stayed home and kept reading instead of coming here. What's on the walls? Shibori's a two-dimensional surface, fabric or paper. You build it up in a three-dimensional way, then just float ink on water and let it do what it wants to do.

Now the breast cancer discussion. In '91 I was treated for breast cancer but it was still localized. In '96, it metastasized to my spine and other places. It was clear that it was incurable. Since then, it has been pretty stable. Cancer adapts to whatever environment it's in. The point is to keep it confused.

Not give it a home. The big round African baskets? These have deconstructed kimonos. I've never paid attention to the nonverbal before. Because of the cancer treatment, it became harder for me to write and articulate. It's called chemo brain. I've discovered the physical world. Texture really has a kind of ontological primacy to it. I feel alive if I'm feeling something with my finger.

 
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