Sunday, November 09, 2014

Diana Crane's "The Visitor"

The upcoming winter issue of Still Point Arts Quarterly will feature fiction by Diana Crane. The Visitor is the story of Sid, who thought he had found a creative solution to his waning art career . . . until he opened his door one day to a visitor. This entertaining story is accompanied by paintings of Susan Landor Keegin. Here is an excerpt:

The woman who stepped off the elevator was younger and more attractive than he had expected. Early forties, possibly, with light brown hair and pale complexion, elegantly but simply dressed in black trousers and black jacket, with a black and white silk scarf around her neck. They shook hands, but he recalled afterwards that she had identified herself downstairs only by her first name—Rachel. 
“Who sent you?” he asked right away. She mentioned the name of one of his galleries with which he had not been in contact for several months. He was pleased that Hank was taking an interest in his work again. Sales were good and his prices were steady, but it didn’t pay to let oneself become over-confident and complacent. The market was always volatile. Success could vanish as suddenly as it had appeared. 
“Did I interrupt your work?” she asked politely. “I don’t want to disturb you.”  
Admiring Matisse 
Mother, Son, and Modigliani 

“I was just finishing up for the day,” he told her. 
“May I watch?” she asked eagerly. “I’d love to see you at work. It would help me to understand what you’re doing.” 
Flattered, in spite of the fact that he considered her opinion of his work worthless, he led her into the area of the loft that he used as his studio. His current canvas was very large. It almost covered a partition that separated the studio from the living area of the loft. It was a complicated work with a great many different images and colors in a variety of styles. He had completed it several months ago, but since then had been redoing parts of it. After each new version, he thought the painting was finally finished, only to discover a few weeks later that certain details struck him as being trite and had to be redone once again. The problem, he told himself, was that now young painters were introducing all sorts of very poorly crafted images into painting. Technical proficiency counted for nothing anymore. Aesthetic standards were in flux. It was hard to resist pernicious influences from paintings that were being indiscriminately praised and shown in galleries all over the city. 
Now, the two of them stood in front of the canvas. Rachel studied it carefully. 
“It’s beautiful,” she said. 
Beauty was not the effect Sid was aiming for, although he had been categorized by certain critics, particularly at the beginning of his career, as an “easy” painter, one whose work was decorative rather than challenging. His later canvases were by no means ugly. He despised the ugliness of much of the current work he saw in galleries. Philosophical, not aesthetic statements. But he did not consider his present work decorative, although some critics tried to claim he had never quite lived up to the potential they had seen in his early work.

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