Re-reading Anna Quindlen’s Still Life with Bread Crumbs, a novel about an artist moving on in age who moves out from the city to save money and finds her “real” life there. That rings all kinds of bells with me. Her artist is a photographer named Rebecca Winter. In this scene, Rebecca ponders why she became a professional artist:
“She never really knew why, why that, why then. The truth was she had never really known, before or after. Talking about art requires artists to sound purposeful and sure of themselves, but she’d never felt that way. Over the years she’d made up a lot of reasons because people didn’t seem to like the arbitrariness of the reality.”
Given the fact that there are an infinite number of things we can do with our lives, why choose painting? I think it chooses us. I think some part of the artist is so dominant that it is irresistible. Witness a painter like Cezanne and his relentless pursuit of the perfect painting of Mount St. Victoire; Modigliani and his muses with the elongated faces – never received well in his lifetime but recently one of his paintings just sold for $170.4 million; Jackson Pollock devoting his life to the complexity of dripped paint. These artists were pursued by the White Goddess of art, no doubt about it.