When I read the question above on an application for a spot
on a local access TV Artist's Showcase, I knew that "working
alone" would become this journal's focus. WCCA Channel
13 Executive Director, Mauro DePasquale's question concerned
collaboration between/among artists, but I saw it as a way to
continue looking at the similarities and differences between
making paintings and poems.
In answer to "Do you work alone or with others?"
I wrote: "Alone would be my first response." Under
"Discuss," I continued: "It's much the same with
respect to writing and art. If you watched me, you wouldn't
see anyone else in the studio or at the computer. So I would
seem to be alone. I don't collaborate with others to produce
a piece of artwork or a poem. However, I value the fact that
I do what I do because of the influence of other artists and
poets who have taught me either directly in classes and response
groups or indirectly through their work."
Granted, the solitary artist or writer is a more romantic image,
hand reaching into a clutch of brushes or head bowed at the
writing table. Add in a flickering candle and the starving part.
And the threadbare clothes. If Charles Simic is right, and "All
art is a magic operation, or, if you prefer, a prayer for a
new image," then it probably should be a close and solitary
relationship between artist/poet and muse.
As I stand at my easel or sit at my computer, I am not alone.
Who made me a wild woman with colors? Hans Hofmann. Marc Chagall.
Vincent van Gogh. Pierre Bonnard. Frida Kahlo. Joan Mitchell.
Joan Snyder. Georges Rouault. And hundreds more whose names
would fill pages. I was able to get close to their work at museums
or galleries and to look at art books just to luxuriate in the
way they used color. All the stops are pulled out when I arrange
approximately 100 colors to begin a piece (and that's before
I mix any of them). Other artists gave me the gift of color.
Who gave me permission to take risks, make mistakes, and learn
Donald M. Murray, the master of the personal essay and a master
teacher. He died recently, but left a legacy to all writers
and artists. Read his books. You need not have met him, although
if you had, you'd be twice as lucky.
Who made me love language and poetry enough to sit down and
fail at writing a poem, but not give up? All the poets whose
work left me puzzled, depressed, elated or vindicated. It is
their language that I dive into, the same way I might pick up
a sketchbook just to get my hand moving. Jane Kenyon. Wislawa
Szymborska. C.K. Williams. Seamus Heaney. Marie Ponsot. And
It's a good thing that the artists and writers to whom I have
given credit are more of the spirit than the flesh. There would
be no room in my studio or at my computer if they insisted on
occupying more than my memory. I know I am not alone when I
squeeze a tube, and too much of one color accidentally takes
me in another direction. Writers whisper and turn my words upside
down and inside out. Thanks to all of them, I don't work alone.