I spent most of today down at the Dallas Museum of Art.
I specifically went down there to view a new exhibition entitled Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara And Gerald Murphy. While the exhibit featured several of Gerald's paintings and a few of Sara's sketches, it seemed to be mainly devoted to detailing the couple's friendships with other better known artists. As such, a good deal of display space was devoted to various letters from Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (who, famously, used the Murphys as a template for the Divers in Tender Is The Night).
Sara was, for a period, one of Pablo Picasso's favorite models and one of the more enlightening parts of the exhibition was a comparison between Picasso's various Cubist portraits of Sara and actual photographs of Sara in similar poses. Picasso has become such a brand name that (much like the few other painters who have become "household" names) it is often forgotten that he was actually a talented artist regardless of which style he was exploring at the time. Comparing Picasso's portraits of Sara with the real woman revealed that Picasso -- as opposed to the less talented artists who stubbornly insist on imitating him in the mistaken belief that it's easier to be abstract than realistic -- always managed to capture the essence of his subject regardless of which technique he used to do so.
As the exhibit itself pointed out, Gerald Murphy was largely inspired to paint after viewing Picasso's first few experiments with Cubism and, at first glance, Murphy's works almost seem to be a bit too inspired by Picasso (and Dadaism as well). In fact, when I first looked at Gerald Murphy's paintings, it was impossible for me to put aside the obvious debt to Picasso and really judge them as individual works. However, the thing with Gerald Murphy's paintings is that they grow on you. By the time I left the exhibit, my opinion of Murphy as a painter had improved. Even if he was imitating Picasso a bit too much (and that's certainly an arguable point), they're very good imitations.
Of Gerald Murphy's displayed work, this was my personal favorite. It's entitled Razor and is from 1927.
Overall, the Murphy exhibit felt more like a celebration of a few fortunate social connections than anything else.
That said, there was something undeniably fascinating about getting a chance to read actual letters hand-written by the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Parker. It was interesting to note that all three of them seemed to play to their popular personas in their letters. Hemingway's letter, for instance, featured a machismo-laced account of a recent fish exhibition. Parker's letter was undeniably witty and dripped with dark sarcasm. Best of all, Fitzgerald offered up a rambling, three-page letter that was written over the course of two days. The first half of the letter was apparently written while drunk and the second half while sober.
At the same time, as each of these writers confirmed their own individual popular images, they also revealed some very tantalizing hints of the actual human beings underneath the personas. Parker, who began one letter with a few self-depreciating comments about sending the Murphys "fan mail," came across as especially vulnerable. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, was revealed to possess truly atrocious handwriting regardless of his state of sobriety. Hemingway hauntingly ended his letter by promising to remain a friend to the Murphys for the rest of his life and into the afterlife.
(Hemingway, of course, put it far better and I'm currently cursing myself for not jotting down his exact words.)
We tend to forget that our artistic icons -- the possessors of the legendary names -- were also human beings as well. That's unfortunate because once you take the individual humanity out of the artist, you diminish the art. The beauty of great art is that it is somehow produced by flawed human beings and, if nothing else, the Murphy Exhibition served to remind me of that.
I was feeling a bit bored and depressed tonight so I ended up cheering myself up by fooling around with photoshop for a while. Mind you, none of this was anything too complicated or anything. It was just some basic cut-and-paste and a few simple effects thrown in for good measure.
I actually ended up liking one of the pictures that I ended up putting together. Again, it's a pretty basic (and obvious) cut-and-paste job but, for me if no one else, it has a certain appeal. It's entitled Solange Dreaming Of The City and it can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail below.
The Solange of the title is Solange Bonheur, a young and enigmatic French psychic who plays an important role in my work-in-progress, the novel In God's Country. Solange is blind when she's awake but in her dreams, she always sees the truth. She's also one of my favorite characters and, if nothing else, she gives me a chance to pay homage to some of my favorite cult horror films. Her blindness was inspired by both the character of Emily in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and the heroines of Jean Rollin's Two Orphan Vampires. Her role as a psychic and mind reader is mean to recall both Fulci's Emily and the unfortunate Helga Ullman, the first victim in Dario Argento's Deep Red. The character herself is named after the titular character of Massimo Dallamaro's classic giallo What Have You Done To Solange?
Sometimes, you just have to be willing to embrace your inner film nerd.