Resident at Westbeth since 1970
Stories Mollie Tureske Told Me, Part 1
Mollie Tureske, 1909-2002, was an artist who, like me, moved into Westbeth at the very beginning. Mollie was mainly a painter. She studied for two summers with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown. She also did wonderful wire sculptures, possibly inspired by Alexander Calder. Like many others living here, we often had conversations in passing, along Bethune Street.
On one of those days, Mollie invited me to her home/studio for dinner. Soon after I arrived, she filled two tall glasses to the very brim with vodka. Brave woman! During our dinner, Mollie told me a story of one of her adventures soon after arriving in New York City in the early 1950s. She wanted to go to the well-known Cedar Tavern, where the various, sooner or later, drunken painters and beat writers hung out. As she was from Maine, where she said a young woman never went to a bar alone, Mollie made plans to meet a girlfriend at the entrance. She waited and waited, but her friend never showed up. So Mollie decided to look in the window, to see if she might easily recognize a gay man sitting at the bar. She spotted someone she felt she would feel safe sitting next to, went in, sat down, and ordered a glass of wine.
After about twenty minutes, she heard loud screaming from the back room, along with the sound of broken glass and a great deal of four letter words. Soon, a man was being thrown out. As he passed Mollie, he extended his arm toward her, saying, “You’re coming home with me.” Mollie ducked and said, “No, I’m not,” as he was thrown out the door. After a period of time, again she heard loud voices from the back room, the sound of broken glass and more four letter words. The same man, who must have reentered via the back door, was again being thrown out. As he passed Mollie, he grabbed her arm again, saying, “You’re coming home with me.” Mollie pushed him away, and he again was thrown out.
About a week or so later (I think in 1952), Mollie went to an opening at the Sydney Janis Gallery. Upon entering, she viewed many amazing paintings. Knowing Sydney Janis, she went over to him, asking who the artist of these beautiful works was. He took her into the back gallery space and pointed to the artist. It was the same man who had grabbed her at the Cedar Tavern. It was Jackson Pollock!