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.
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.
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.
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Tags: studio update