Painting is as lonely a business as writing can be, so Scott has developed friendships with other artists over the years and alternates his studio time with group outings to paint en plein air, visits to other artist’s studios and vice versa. Today, Bob MacPherson came to spend some time with Scott.
Bob and Scott have different styles, both somewhat impressionistic with a bit of the abstract here and there. We started to talk about abstract art. Bob recalled being in a museum and looking at a collection that was primarily different colored squares, juxtaposed on each canvas in various combinations. The paintings weren’t speaking to him and he was about to write them off when he overheard a docent explaining that the artist was exploring the concept of psychology and art and how different color combinations can evoke emotion. That made the paintings a bit more interesting.
When I first met Scott, I was a big fan of modern art. Six years living in
Living with art and among living artists, understanding what they are striving to achieve and how they can make a living doing it has given me an altogether different point of view. I still have an academic appreciation for modern art, but I’ve learned a whole new level of appreciation for representational art as well. I’ve learned that what I can appreciate in a museum is not necessarily what I want to see hanging in my living room.
Coincidentally, I was finally able to start reading Francine Prose’s Reading like a Writer and there are some similar parallels between the visual arts and literature. When I was in high school back in
I’ve always loved art and literature pretty equally, so over the years, I’ve either read or attempted to read as many “great” books as I could. I’ve enjoyed most that I’ve read, but not all. I tried to read Faulkner several times before I finally picked up As I Lay Dying. I made it through, enjoyed it, was able to follow it reasonably well, but am certain there was a lot I missed. Tropic of Cancer is still sitting on the shelf, unread but someday I’ll try it again. I read William Gaddis’s last novel, Agapē Agape with its five page sentences and it took enough focused concentration to light the book ablaze. I needed a three hour nap to recover. I have another Gaddis novel also waiting patiently in the bookcase for me to crack it open, but it may be waiting a while.
Why would a rational person, with limited time to read for pleasure, put herself through this? It’s because I know how much I’ve loved other books that were tough to get through, once I was able to find their rhythm and get into them. Sometimes I couldn’t do it outside of a classroom.
It’s definitely a different kind of reading than I do when I need something to get me through a long flight, but as long as I’m not completely lost and I see the beauty of the author’s work, I enjoy it -- don’t I? Or is it that I just want to be able to say I read it?
An engineer friend of mine maintains that all abstract artwork is a case of “the emperor has no clothes”. Maybe sometimes this is true. When certain art and literature is so esoteric that it requires special education to appreciate, can we really love it?
What books have you struggled to read and then fallen in love with? Which ones have you tried to read and abandoned? Do we really read serious literature because we enjoy it, or because it’s a challenge and if it’s critically acclaimed, we want to see what the reviewer saw?