Portrait of a Working Girl by Annie Ayrton — Michele Leavitt

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

Annie Ayrton  portrait of a Working Girl 2.jpg

                 — Portland Museum of Art, March 3, 2012

Her signature slashes the lower margin – Annie
underlined and Ayrton overwrought, illegible. Imagine
her intent as you will, and no one can
contradict you, for she is a wiki-less artist, nothing
certain but her year of death. Or imagine

the model, paid to sit still, the subject.
Irises smudged to opaqueness, she gazes inward.
She neither smiles nor pouts, neither the object
of desire nor of nostalgia that standard women’s work
might make her. Imagine moments

free from men and all our work to keep them.
The exhibit masters feel obliged to tell us
What is clear from this powerful portrait
 is the influence of Degas. His series of paintings and pastels
of washerwomen depicted with strength and dignity
 is the obvious inspiration for this portrait.

Michele Leavitt.JPG

Michele Leavitt’s poetry and prose appear in publications including So to Speak, The Journal, Umbrella, Mezzo Cammin, The Tower Journal, Passager and Per Contra. Her full-length poetry manuscript, Back East, won the Michael Macklin Prize and will be published by Moon Pie Press in the autumn of 2013. She is also the winner of the Ohio State University’s 2010 William Allen Award for creative nonfiction. A high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, and former trial attorney, she earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College in 1995. Michele now lives in Maine, where she co-directs the Honors Program at Unity College and teaches writing.