Paper collage, 3x3 inches, detail from Matisse's Woman Before an Aquarium
Another paper collage adapted from the same painting
Art and literature have been two personal passions for as long as I can remember. As a child I drew, cut and pasted, colored all the time. I cannot remember a time before I could read. In high school I took every English class offered, and I also took art classes as often as I could, which my friends advised against claiming it weakened my resume for college. There is another whole issue, lack of respect for art.
At any rate, I stumbled into two book recently that speak to both of these. The first, Transforming Vision, was sitting on a sale table at Half Price Books. It's a beautiful book, with around fifty paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago is a hundred miles from here, but it's an easy train ride, so I visit the Art Institute two or three times a year. Familiarity with the paintings makes the book seem like a new look at old friends. In it authors including Saul Bellow, Delmore Schwartz, Francine Prose, Rita Dove, Willa Cather and Stanley Kunitz write essays, stories, poems about the the artworks - including Matisse's Woman Before an Aquarium. I read a couple a day and am never disappointed. My next trip to the Art Institute will be a treat after having thought about the work discussed in this book.
I got the other book on interlibrary loan. It's The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawing and Sculptures by Writers, by Donald Friedman. This is a large book, heavy, lavishly illustrated. In it the author gives biographies of writers who created art, and especially discusses their thought on the connections between the written word and images created in art. This is a tremendous reference, one I'm rationing out to about thirty pages a day. I find myself being surprised at familiar poets and novelists who also made art (Enid Bagnold, Elizabeth Bishop, William Faulkner), and delighted to discover writers whom I did not know (Russell Edson, Carol Emshwiller). The authors/artists are arranged alphabetically, and I'm only up to Jules Feiffer. Every page is interesting.
It's the dead of winter here in southern Wisconsin, and I am grateful to be able to stay inside to read and do artwork. I remember all those cold days when I was teaching, going out in the dark to clean off the car, slide to work, come out in the dark, clean off the car and slide home in the dark, only to have paperwork to finish. These days are like gifts.