"... but those very accessories (in Arbus’s world they may be leopard-skin pillbox hats, strings of pearls, Halloween masks, tight jeans, tattoos, tidy bourgeois interiors, boaters, bow ties or even brazen, dare-you-to-object nakedness) are continually giving away the game. Bob Dylan once mockingly sang that a leopard-skin pillbox hat 'balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine.' But to Arbus, who began as a fashion photographer, the various forms our denial takes were not contemptible. They were strange, riveting, poignant. Arbus was as averse to sentimentality as she was free from disgust or contempt. Her insight was not in itself original. Nonetheless it deepened in her hands in unique ways. That she was a photographer and not a painter or sculptor was crucial to her expression of the 'we’re-all-monkeys-at-a-tea-party' idea."
The reason I'm not going to barrel down that conversational highway is I'm getting off at the exit marked "Bob Dylan."
The line "You know it balances on your head/Just like a mattress balances/On a bottle of wine"
has been a favorite of mine for well over 50 years. Such a great image, and the funniest part is that it's impossible to picture. You have to picture 2 things — the hat on the head and the mattress on the bottle of wine. It's easy to picture a hat on a head, but just as you begin to do that, you're challenged to picture a balancing that cannot happen — a soft flexible expanse atop a narrow, hollow column (which distracts you into thinking about sex (in a way that you can't really see)) — and then to go back to the hat and try to visualize it balancing like... what?
From anyone but Bob, this would be an annoying failure to craft a simile. From Bob... genius!
So, quick aside: Don't try to take your own "Diane Arbus" pictures.
Back to Bob: "Bob Dylan once mockingly sang that a leopard-skin pillbox hat 'balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine.'" Was Bob mocking the "you" in her hat? Read the lyrics. He's crazy about the hat. He's having some problems with the lady, but he's quite enthusiastic about her and even more in love with the hat. Not mocking, I'd say, but being funny, sexually excited, and a bit angry.
Smee suggests that Dylan was expressing contempt for the hat: "But to Arbus, who began as a fashion photographer, the various forms our denial takes were not contemptible." Contempt and denial — denial that we are the monkeys at a tea party that we are. Smee says "Arbus was as averse to sentimentality as she was free from disgust or contempt." But Bob Dylan was averse to sentimentality and free from disgust and... sometimes even from contempt. I don't think Smee meant to take a sideswipe at Bob Dylan, but that was careless. Smee forgot to close the garage door.