This paper examines the dialogic exchange between New York School poet Frank O’Hara's long poem, “In Memory of My Feelings,” and contemporary painter Jasper John's eponymous piece, In Memory of My Feelings—Frank O’Hara that converges both on a fluid negotiation of artistic modes and on a discourse of “the body.” Conferred permission to “read” John's art or envision O’Hara's poem, these pieces promulgate a sense of de-familiarization that not only transforms the audience's embodied response, but that equally problematizes a binary between the private and public spheres. So, too, does the continual movement—the artists’ and our own—between surface (body/public) and interior (feelings/private) complicate divisions between subject and object, sexual conformity and difference, and life and death. For both O’Hara and Johns there is a fundamental tension between corporeal presence and absence, bodily avowal and negation, that has traction in the artists’ shared male homosexual identity. The deconstructive impulse in these works therefore illuminates the bodily self as inevitable artifice—literally a skilled “making by art.” The body becomes an index that lives on only through “touch” and “memory,” and the paper concludes with a discussion of two O’Hara/Johns post-“Feelings” pieces, which actualize this effect.

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