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The Art of Loneliness: The two pieces of art I've most enjoyed this month were stories of and for the lonely. In the 2016 thriller Personal Shopper, a woman named Maureen waits in Paris for communication—some kind of sound, sight, movement—from her dead twin brother, a sign he's at peace on the other side. Meanwhile, she starts receiving unsettling text messages from someone who seems to know everything about her. Initially she rebuffs the texts. Then she starts sending back intimacies—pictures of herself wearing borrowed clothes, updates on her emotional state—because, it seems, she has no one else with whom to share them. At the same time that Maureen's story telegraphs as a dubious quest for the supernatural, it portrays a completely understandable response to acute isolation. She’s looking to connect, after losing her other half, her twin.
Olivia Laing's 2017 book The Lonely City starts with less finite loneliness than death: the author's solo decampment to New York after a sudden break-up, examined in relation to misfit artists who fed off the city and sought connection through art. Combining memoir, historical research, and art criticism, Laing's writing is most moving on the multimedia artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, whose work interrogated both his discovery and his repression of desire. Like many of his peers, Wojnarowicz died young, at 37, of complications from AIDS. His often lonely life ended with no pat resolutions, much like Maureen's story. But just last week, he scored a belated victory: his portrait on the cover of the New York Times T magazine's culture issue. The image was taken by his lover and friend Peter Hujar, who also died of AIDS. Nearly 30 years after the photo shoot, it's granting Wojnarowicz one of the only true balms for loneliness: a chance to be seen, through the eyes of someone who took the time to really look.