William Faulkner on discrepancies and contradictions

As a guest at Yaddo this summer (studio pictured above with work in progress), I have access to a lovely library, which is located in a neo-classical building in the center of the compound. Built in 1910, the stucco-clad structure also houses the residency office and the grounds garage, and features a charming Tuscan colonnade. Browsing through the stacks last week, I found a number of first editions inscribed by authors who at one time or another were Yaddo guests. One book that especially caught my eye was The Mansion, published in 1959, William Faulkner’s final novel of a trilogy that chronicles the life of a Mississippi family named Snopes.

The book isn’t signed, and I can’t find evidence that Faulkner ever spent time here, but I appreciate his preface:

This book is the final chapter of, and the summation of, a work conceived and begun in 1925. Since the author likes to believe, hopes that his entire life’s work is part of a living literature, and since ‘living’ is motion, and ‘motion’ is change and alteration and therefore the only alternative to motion is un-motion, stasis, death, there will be found discrepancies and contradictions in the thirty-four-year progress of this particular chronicle; the purpose of this note is simply to notify the reader that the author has already found more discrepancies and contradictions than he hopes the reader will—contradictions and discrepancies due to the fact that the author has learned, he believes, more about the human heart and its dilemma than he knew thirty-four years ago; and is sure that, having lived with them that long time, he knows the characters in this chronicle better than he did then.

–W.F.

Clearly Faulkner’s correlation of time and life lived with wisdom applies to visual artists as well as writers. Artists evolve, and their understanding of the world becomes more nuanced and complex. Some artists, of course, use acquired knowledge intensively, to keep mining the same vein, deeper and deeper, for their entire careers. Others continue expanding the range and content of their paintings. I fall unapologetically into this camp. False starts and inconsistencies are part of my process, and I’m sure many more will surface before I’m done. “Branding” isn’t a priority.

Related posts:
Off to Yaddo
Brouhaha in Baltimore when local conceptual artist swipes another painter’s visual tropes
 

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Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

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3 thoughts on “William Faulkner on discrepancies and contradictions”

  1. Don't we all want our work to be "living literature"? as visual artists our work must be ever evolving and changing, indeed "in motion". As we grow to understand the human condition and societal complexities born of human idiosyncratic forces, we, artists must engage our audience with greater insight and graphic poignancy.

  2. Nicely stated (by Faulkner and you). It's good to be reminded that many artists gain insight over time, especially in a culture and art world obsessed with the the young and the new.

  3. Hey Sharon,
    I hope your time at Yaddo is superfantastic. I was there in winter, so I can only imagine how terrific the summer is there. Here is a Faulkner quote that I thought you might like, as it applies to visual arts as well.

    The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”
    ― William Faulkner

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