De Kooning went through three stages of portraiture. In the first, he painted men (who often resembled Frank O’Hara). In the second, he painted women. In the final stage, he painted (and also beautifully sculpted) "clamdiggers" — a word without gender. And, indeed, his renderings of clamdiggers are never clearly masculine or feminine. De Kooning was saying: "Finally, people are neither men nor women; they are workers — creatures holding tools, to unearth hidden clams."
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