At first there was only that one picture, a self-portrait. It was a modest canvas by present-day standards. But it filled my New York studio, the apartment’s back room, as if it had always been there. For one thing, it was the room; I had been struck, one day, by a fascinating array of doors—hall, kitchen, bathroom, studio—crowded together, soliciting my attention with their antic planes, light, shadows, imminent openings and shuttings. From there it was an easy leap to a dream of countless doors. Perhaps in a way it was a talisman for the things that were happening, an iteration of quiet event, line densities wrought in a crystal paperweight of time where nothing was expected to appear except the finished canvas and, later, a few snowflakes, for the season was Christmas, 1942, and Max was my Christmas present.
It was snowing hard when he rang the doorbell. Choosing pictures for a show to be called Thirty Women (later Thirty-One Women), he was a willing emissary to the studios of a bouquet of pretty young painters who, besides being pretty, which they couldn’t help, were also very serious about being artists.
“Please come in,” I smiled, trying to say it as if to just anyone. He hesitated, stamping his feet on the doormat. “Oh, don’t mind the wet,” I added. “There are no rugs here.” There wasn’t much furniture either, or anything to justify the six rooms, front to back. We moved to the studio, a livelier place in any case, and there on an easel was the portrait, not quite finished. He looked while I tried not to. At last, “What do you call it?” he asked. “I really haven’t a title.” “Then you can call it Birthday.” Just like that.
–from Birthday, Santa Monica: The Lapis Press, 1986, p. 14, and Between Lives: An Artist and Her World. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001, pp. 62-63.