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"I want to ask you a question," Sonnabend says, "if you are creating yourself as you painted your picture?" In other words: Does a human being's dynamic experience create life's meaning? Or, does human life already have a meaningful essence?

De Kooning greets this existential inquiry with genial aplomb, before waving it away like a bothersome housefly. A common question in the period's critical discourse, it is clearly one whose answer he has recited many times.

"Everything is already in art," the painter gently demurs. "Like a big bowl of soup. Everything is in there already, and you stick your hand in and you find something for you."

"Like a big bowl of soup." De Kooning is talking the way artists talk among themselves, not the way critics, curators, theoreticians or historians write about art and not even the way artists describe their practice on formal occasions. In the intimate environment of his studio, among fellow painters and friends, the high-flown existential mysteries and profound philosophical dramas of painting are handily reduced to soup.
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