Clockwise from far left: Grandfather Theo, Grandmother Margaret, Anna Saterstrom, Uncle Butch, Roger Saterstrom, Aunt Lucy, Jessica Saterstrom. The amorphous white blob in the center is Noah Saterstrom, age four, maybe. Years later, Noah Saterstrom, the painter, made this image. Look deep into the stroke of the amorphous white blob. You will find the mind of a painter. And here is the painter himself, applying it:
Noah was eleven or twelve when this picture was taken. He’s sitting on the porch of the house he grew up in in Natchez, Mississippi. He’s painting the steeple of the cathedral several blocks over. Maybe I would’ve had to make it up, he says of the steeple. Back then he wore high-tops while he painted:
I’m sitting at the counter in Noah’s kitchen. He’s sitting at the dining table behind me. We’re drinking Fresca. Noah’s paintings are faithful and intuitive renderings of people and settings—situations, I feel—expressions of what happens when people are caught in a moment of moving internally in numerous directions, though made, by some unseen—perhaps obscene—force, to stay composed. He has collaborated with numerous artists, including Kate Bernheimer, Joan Fiset, Kristen Nelson and Anne Waldman. He’s currently collaborating with the poet Laynie Browne. Here is St. Jude with his Pentecostal flame, allowing him to speak in all languages at once.
Is that what a painter does? I mean, is that what a painting is? At least an approximation of the gift—the compulsion, the compulsive burden, perhaps—of that flame, light and color and value and substance as the meeting-place of all languages, the rising out of one’s head a sequence of material atoms? Noah has also illustrated the covers of books by poets Jenny Boully, Noah Eli Gordon & Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Gordon Massman, Andrea Rexilius and Shelly Taylor. We’re listening to The Magnetic Fields. Actually, this is not The Magnetic Fields.
Here is a photograph by Dana Matthews. Noah has two fish: Septimus and Clarissa. Literary references. They live in small glass globes in Noah’s studio, which is in his backyard, across the patio there. Septimus and Clarissa are over there right now, alone, together, with Noah’s paintings, complete and in-progress. Natchez, Mississippi, used to be called West Florida. Here is a photograph of Noah standing with his mom, their arms around each other. It appears they are staring at the bricks in this small building. What are they looking at? Are they going inside?