Both Lulu Meets God and Spending have a first person narration provided by a woman artist. Both of these artists are figurative painters and maybe even a little defensive about it. Characters abound (in especially Lulu) who are snobs about installation or performance or conceptual work and turn their noses up at painting. Especially figurative painting.
I can't help but notice, though, that figurative painting is very successful in these stories, sort of a "gotcha" moment...
And the road to masterpieces is slowly, finely detailed - the moments of observation, the translation, the pensive brush to the canvas, the method of a recording not photographic.
I did not think about it one way or another when I read Spending – Mary Gordon did a spectacular job of plugging into the artist’s mindset, especially the act of observation and drawing. But after reading another novel in which the artist draws representationally, I am wondering if indeed the road to abstraction (or collage, performance, video, installation, maybe anything else) is a difficult for the non-artist to bridge, to write about.
Any of these practices can be every bit the intense spiritual journey that figurative painting can be.
….I thought I was going to write about everyday ongoing struggles of feeling dissed, the gallery system, ceaseless distracting love affairs, yadda yadda yadda….
That's all there, but I also ended up writing a lot about art, about big shows and small, private works, and more than anything, the spiritual embrace necessary for at least this protagonist to cross over into a body of work which will matter.
I wonder if it is easier for the regular reader (whoever that is) to read about figurative art, to “get it” - ? Is it too big a leap to carry them to other mediums, other styles, and still maintain the vision? The translation is just easier. Perhaps the tone is too serious here, but writing a cynical work which makes fun of everything or is just lightly bitchy is not interesting to me. They are boring to read too.