oil on linen 47×28 inches, 1980

Private collection

On our first trip to Paris we came upon a primitive but very beautiful antique carousel set up alongside the ultra-contemporary Centre Georges Pompidou. Some of the horses were missing an ear, some a hoof or a tail. Their gaudy colors had been caressed to a smooth, neutral patina by countless little hands.

Our attention was drawn to a small, exquisitely dressed young girl standing in line with her equally perfect young parents. As the carousel glided to a stop, the girl clambered excitedly onto the platform to claim her carefully chosen steed.

As her parents secured her with buckles and straps, her eyes widened, her smile contorted, and her hands froze to the shiny pole. She watched in fear as the attendant passed out the sticks with which to snare the brass rings, and only on pantomimed encouragement from her parents did she free a hand to accept one.

From that moment on, her trepidation mounted in direct proportion to the increasing speed of the carousel. While all the other little riders galloped around, twisting and leaning with daredevil abandon, she remained upright and immobile: clinging to her pole, staring blindly at nothing.

Until her parents came into view. Then, though nearly paralyzed with fear, she smiled and waved bravely, and they smiled and waved gaily in return. In between those spinning visits, the little girl clung to her pole and her parents clung to their ongoing argument. Round and round and round they went….

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