Yosemite Valley, #474
Published April 6, 2009
Sunrise over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View.
Warren Zevon, Keep Me In Your Heart from The Wind
I read these passages from Anne Truitt’s Daybook this morning, and some aspects of her words really hit home. I felt like sharing:
The stark fact of financial insecurity is once again stage center. Confronted by it in the summer of 1973, I circled the territory of my competence. Several alternatives presented themselves, only to be disqualified. I had one year of formal training in art, no degree. Teaching, requiring in the ordinary run of positions at least a master’s degree in fine arts, would have meant further study, and this seemed ridiculously out of proportion, in addition to costing money itself. My B.S. and three years of professional experience in psychology were negligible professional equipment. A routine job remained a possibility, but one of last resort.
So I came then to the decision to ride out the jeopardy of art with as much courage and faith as I could. Turning it over once again now in my mind, I reach the same decision but with a change in attitude. Last year I did not have enough faith to trust myself to the course of events without a certain anxious steering toward success. Not for the glory of it, heaven knows, but for the sheer earning of money for the children and myself. I feel differently this year. I have set my sails without a preconceived course. It is a change to have sails to set. The metaphor is different. Last year a canoe, this year a ship in full sailing trim, keel stripped, lines coiled, sails patched with new cloth. My hand is light on the wheel. I am open to shifting winds and seas. I am even curious.
Last winter, during the course of preparations for the retrospectives, I found myself on the crest of an unspeakable loneliness. Stopped, I told my children that I would like a day to myself and went to the National Gallery. I arrived just before the doors opened and waited on the steps leading up from the Mall, sitting patiently as in a doctor’s waiting room. Admitted, I went straight to the Rembrandt self-portrait, painted when he was fifty-three, my age. He looked straight out at me, and I looked straight in at him.
There is a sort of shame in naked pain. I used to see it in my patients when I was working in psychology and nursing. They found it more seemly, more expedient to pull over themselves thin coverlets of talk. There is wisdom in this, and unselfish honor in bearing one’s burdens silently. But Rembrandt found a higher good worth the risk and painted himself as he knew himself, human beyond reprieve. He looks out from this position, without self-pity and without flourish, and lends me strength.
I sat for a long while in one of the rectangular courtyards listening to the fountain. Feeling the artists all around me, I slowly took and unassuming place (for two of my own sculptures were somewhere in the museum) among the people whose lives, as all lives do, had been distilled into objects that outlasted them. Quilts, pin cushions, chairs, tables, houses, sculptures, paintings, tilled and retilled fields, gardens, poems—all of validity and integrity. Like earthworms, whose lives are spent making more earth, we human beings also spend ourselves into the physical. A few of us leave behind objects judged, at least temporarily, worthy of preservation by the culture into which we were born. The process is, however, the same for us all. Ordered into the physical, in time we leave the physical, and leave behind us what we have made into the physical.
I went from the courtyard to Cézanne. Behind the paint marks, shining through like a promise, another reality transcends the tangibility of his paintings. Cézanne affirms that this world exemplifies, illustrates, hints. But he too was caught by his humanness. He died watching the door through which he hoped his sun would arrive.
– Anne Truitt, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist