Whenever I’m at odds I look at art for a while.
This weekend I rediscovered the American painter, Dana Schutz. A write-up on Schutz by Jill Medvedow for a 2017 show at the ICA/Boston summed it up very nicely, “Schutz’s paintings combine abstraction and figuration with expressive imagination, fragmented bodies, banal objects, and quotidian scenes to create oddly compelling and intriguing pictures.”
In a word, Dana Shutz’s painting is funny. Okay three words: funny and divisive. It’s also vivid, lonely, poignant. Think of Philip Guston, Max Beckman, German expressionism. But it’s also narrative. A cataloguing of the everyday made poetic. When I look at her pictures I want to go find her and be her friend.
These are a few of her pictures I return to again and again.
hidden And riffing on making art from the quotidian (because really, what’s the alternative during a pandemic), I came across another startling American artist this week, the writer Joy Williams.
The morning that I read that the Governor of Florida, Ron de Santos, wanted to fly flags at half-staff to honor Rush Limbaugh’s passing was the morning I decided that it was time to replace the morning news with a morning short story. So on Friday, I picked up an old New Yorker at random and read Williams’ story, “Chicken Hill.” Excerpt below:
“She ate a bowl of cereal. The milk had gone bad.
Sometimes the refrigerator took pride in keeping things
cool and crisp, and sometimes it didn’t seem to care.”
There are certain authors with whom I feel a jolt of recognition and Williams is one. Skilled at finding the hidden funny bone, they offer stories like bites straight out of a lemon. In 2015 Dan Kois wrote of Williams that “she has a gift for sentences whose unsettling turns — ‘‘While she was thinking of something perfectly balanced and amusing to say, the baby was born’’ —force readers to grapple, just as her characters grapple, with the way life will do what it wants with you.”
Just reading that had me searching for anything on my shelves by esoteric writer, Lydia Davis—a short story and quotidian-celebrator super genius. Here’s one of her stories in six words, title included:
Christian, I’m not a
I wonder who I’ll come across next time I need a jolt of the joy that art always, always knows how to deliver.