Email: Daniel Wiener on art in fiction

Daniel Wiener, Yellow Paint Flecking My Teeth, 2017, Apoxie-Sculpt.

Daniel Wiener, who recently presented exceptional new work in “Doubled,” a two-person show at Studio 10 in Bushwick, sent a note in response to our summer fiction series. “Lately it seems that art and artists have been appearing more frequently in fiction, and writers are doing a better job both with contemporary artists and those who are long gone. Here is a list of books that readers might enjoy as part of the Two Coats emphasis on fiction this summer.” Thanks Daniel, for taking the time to compile and share this list–excellent choices.

Daniel Wiener, installation view at Studio 10.
In Pat Barker’s second trilogy, Life Class, the books include Life Class (2007), Toby’s Room (2012), and Noonday (2015). The characters are based on artists of the time, whereas her more well known Regeneration trilogy is more concerned with writers. Though dealing with depressing subject matter, all six of the books are utterly absorbing, and I would highly recommend them for summer reading.
Not quite about fine art, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a terrific yarn about the birth of a comic book as well as a canonical novel of American immigration.
Hoffman tells the story of Pissarro’s mother and his upbringing in the Jewish section of St. Thomas.
A coming of age novel that takes place in Soho in the 1970s about a twenty-something woman who aspires to be a great artist and a revolutionary. Kushner includes both real and fictional artists and vividly captures the artists’ work and milieu. The author is too young to have lived through the era, but she worked at Bomb for quite a while before finishing this book.
We are Water is a mediocre romance with topical subject matter. One of the main characters is an artist who embodies just about every cliche of the artist ever invented.
When it first came out, this book sparked a debate about unlikeable women characters. The main character is an art teacher who longs to become a well known artist. She loves and envies the famous conceptual artist with whom she shares studio space, and projects her longing onto the artist and her family. Messud, like Kushner, does a good job getting inside the life of the artist.
A beautiful book about Ottoman painters of the 1600s and the tension between Persian tradition and Western influence. Pamuk has a deep understanding of this subject, and his descriptions (really recreations) of the spirit of Persian painting, so different from our own, is enlightening.
This is an amusing murder mystery and satire set in the flashy New York art world of the 1980s. Lots of fun if you don’t mind reading about serial killers.
How to Be Both – Ali Smith
This is a great book, divided into two sections in which the first tells the story of a special relationship between a girl from the present and an artist from the 15th century. A painting, and the act of painting, are protagonists.

 The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith
A fun read. From the press copy: “In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke’s in Holland, the first woman to be so recognized. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain – a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she’s curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive.”
Please, readers, feel free to add more suggestions for novels about art, artists, or the art world in the Comments section.

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4 thoughts on “Email: Daniel Wiener on art in fiction”

    1. Daniel. Thank you, I love this kind of list as well as another opportunity to gaze into your molten faces.
      In “Sentimental Education” Flaubert gets inside the aesthetic foibles of a painter. And painting alongside Lily Briscoe in Virginia Wolf’s “To the Lighthouse” is like a class at the studio school. Stu. Sch. alumni informed Mary Gordon’s “Spending.” Oh so many more…

  1. Yes thank you Daniel!

    I want to suggest Knut Hamsun’s ‘Hunger’, about a starving and prolific writer. Every struggling artist should read it. Really great and uplifting, funny.

    and ‘Concrete’, by Thomas Bernhard (one of Hamsun’s literary heirs), also about a struggling writer… one in different financial circumstances, but also struggling as he can’t ever seem to get started.

    and Daniel I have also really enjoyed following your work on Instagram etc.

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