In the High Peaks

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Night: Nell Painter and Andrew Wyeth

I have been listening to Nell Irvin Painter's Old in Art School for weeks and weeks, it seems. There were interruptions. I always listen to it while knitting, for better or worse for the knitting project should I become too absorbed.

I am within 45 minutes of the end, and it will be very hard to tear myself away from Nell Painter's voice, the variety of her tones of voice, the variety of her subjects. Many a time I have disagreed with her views on issues in art, on race, about white people, about academic historians and scholars. Yet even when I have had strong, strong reactions to what she has said, I've been fully engaged. I've been actually in dialogue with this author just as if she has been in the room with me. (!) I agree with her lots of times and at other times quibble only slightly. But, the point is, she's always challenging me. I feel I know her. I'm so accustomed to her voice that I hate to let her go, I dread finishing the memoir.  She is a SUPERIOR reader, the best I've encountered in the past year, and perhaps for many years. So painstakingly careful of tone, of voice, of diction and erudition, everything. I'm constantly writing her letters in my head as I take walks or when I'm cleaning or cooking.

Fortunately I'm able to stream thousands of programs via the PBS Passport program, provided when a person becomes a member of their local PBS station. Wednesday afternoon I was so very tired. I lugged my laptop up to my bedroom and for an hour streamed the PBS American Masters' broadcast of a documentary about the great and often terribly misunderstood American artist Andrew Wyeth. It's entitled simply Wyeth. Over the course of a lifetime I've seen a number of large-scale museum exhibitions of Wyeth's work: 1) a retrospective that circulated a number of museums in the mid 1970s, and 2) an exhibition of Wyeth's "Helga" paintings in the 1980s,  a collection of his art which had been secret for decades, and which shocked many people when they were revealed. I would never say that Wyeth has ever been "my favorite artist," or anything like that, but he has always interested me tremendously. I find now that I appreciate his art more as I grow older and older. A very stark realism. Not realism realism as has became so ridiculously outdated in the 1960s and later, but realism made more stark with emotions--I suppose that's how I see it. Perhaps for this moment in time he is my "favorite" artist.

In any case, the very next day, I descended on the library in Glens Falls and took out quite a number of books regarding Andrew Wyeth's art, a DVD about the entire Wyeth family, and a biography of Wyeth published in 1996, though he didn't die until 2006, I believe. How wonderful to have that library resource here--so grateful.

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