Wednesday, April 05, 2006

judging a book...or two

This morning I had to go to my mother's apartment (no, that is not it on the left) to let in the maintenance man, who was changing the air conditioning filters. He wears the brown pants and beige shirt with the name of the condo written in red on his pocket. I don't know his name. He has worked his way through all the rooms and is in the bedroom. I am in the hallway, looking at the art on the walls: a Miro, a Konrad, two lithographs by Raphael Soyer, and some other pieces I always see but never really study. He comes out of the bedroom and says "oh, you like paintings." "Yes," I say. "I love art." "Me too," says he. "Let me show you which one I really love." I follow him into the spare room where he goes to the corner and points to a watercolor of the Kreuger Mansion in Newark, NJ painted by my grandfather. ( At left is a recent photo, not grandpa's artwork, which was painted 50 years ago, before the building had been vandalized. Then, Jose (as I later discover is his name) tells me he is an artist who works in oils and he whips out his cell phone and opens it to show me a painting which looks pretty good. He tells me he has sent the painting to his cousin in Puerto Rico so that his cousin will have something to remember him by after he is dead. I do not mention that I am an artist. This is HIS moment. But you can never assume. You can never tell by looking at someone or surmising from the way he/she earns a living, what creative process and talent is going on to enrich his/her life. And I realize that for 13 years, he has been looking at the art on my mother's walls every time he comes in to fix something. I want to cry. Which brings me to Ted Orland's book, The View from the Studio Door, which I was reading at my mother's before I wandered into the hall to look at the art. There is SO MUCH in that book that I can't begin right now to discuss it - but I have decided that I should have married this author. Of course, he didn't ask me - but that is irrelevant. Has anybody else read it yet so that we can have a conversation?

11 comments:

Karoda said...

Last night I read an article about the estate of William Tolliver that is now ran by he 20something daughter. But he was a construction worker who came home and painted all evening daily. And Romare Bearden retired from his job with the state of NY as a social worker in order to retain job benefits. So, yes, you can never draw conclusions or assumptions based on such limited information.

I'll see if I can find this book locally tomorrow or Friday.

Felicity said...

Sorry, I haven't read the book but this is strange/funny because I was thinking almost the same thing this week. Seeing athletes on TV you can almost tell what field they are in by their body shape. Also, we use clothes or uniforms to indicate to others what we do - but artists are all shapes and sizes, young and old. I was asked yesterday by a stranger if I intended to find work and I said no. How do you show or explain that art is your whole life?! I know people that have known me for years but still don't know I draw - it's not something that I had an opportunity to drop in conversation! Interesting topic!

jenclair said...

I love this story. As Karoda mentions, art is an unseen facet of more lives than we know, but I need the reminders, the personal anecdotes now and then. Like the Secret Garden, the occasional peek into the secret artistic life is an inspiring experience.

Judy said...

So true! I have just joined a new art guild here in our little town and was amazed at how many folks I know who are artists.....but none of us knew that the others were!
I loved your comment about how you didn't tell him that you too were an artist..."it was his moment". Very nice, Rayna.

lizzieb said...

yes, I am currently reading this book. There is so much to think about and no easy answers. I am currently somewhere in the mid-30's of the book.

Rayna said...

You're right, Liz. Lots to think about - some things to question, a lot to agree with -- I think I will invite Mr. Orland to come and be a guest on this blog. Off to the Sedgwick show in Philly tomorrow. Will take laptop and camera for the weekend.

I told my mother about my encounter with Jose and she found it interesting and wondered why he never said anything to her. I understand why.

Mandi aka Fabric Princess said...

OK. What am I missing? I bought the book because you've been raving about it, and I loved "Art and Fear". I read it Monday. I got nothing from it. I especially skipped over the school chapter, as it doesn't apply to me, but otherwise I just didn't get anything at all. No info. Where should I go back to? Did I just read it at the wrong time (it was my b-day, but I was in a bad mood....might have something to do with it)?

Anonymous said...

Rayna,
great post! I do have the book but can't read it until the semester is over. I'm looking forward to it as Art and Fear is my favorite book on being an artist and your little tidbits are very enticing.
I really enjoy reading your blog.
BeckyH in hot Dallas

Ted Orland said...

I entirely understand Mandi’s reaction. Art & Fear talks about the day-to-day obstacles we face as artists every time we walk into our studios, while The View takes aim on larger (often philosophical) issues that stand to either side of that artistic moment of truth. One looks inward, the other outward. The View does share much common ground with Art & Fear, but it’s more like a companion piece than a sequel -- and the audience for one may not (alas!) be a perfect match for the other.

And oh, BTW, I’d be delighted to marry Rayna! (Of course we’re both already married, but hey, we live on different coasts – who would know?)

laura said...

Rayna, lovely post. and wonderful that Jose had his moment - you will have other times to share your art with him.
side note: How many of us have even a part of our portfolios handy to show a person on a momen't notice! very very sophisticated!
have ordered 'The View...', am looking forward to the read.

hyave a great Phila weekend, hugs to all.

Mr. Orland, welcome to Rayna's blog.

Rayna said...

Well, Ted (I think, now that we've settled THAT issue,that I can feel free to call you by your first name) - please check back as regularly as you can stand it. Maybe we can all have a real back-and-forth here.