Some Degree of Transcendence
I've been meaning to write about the book for a while, and then I bought this bouquet of carnations from Costco which reminded me of the above photograph in the book. They sort of called to each other, the flowers and the photo.
I first read about the photographs in an issue of Kinfolk. Sally Mann herself talks about the photos she took in Twombly's studio:
"I was never particularly interested in having Cy himself in the pictures—he was there in spirit. And what a spirit it was. Audacious and yet courtly, always perfectly mannered. Soft-spoken, almost shy, but bold in his gaze, occasionally withering in his contempt or censure (as when he scolded me for an over-exuberant recitation of some miscreant behavior that I found hilarious). By turns embarrassed by the bawdy and delighted by it. Occasionally dismissive and grumpy, imperious at moments, but tender and sweet at others. Kind of like the rest of us, actually. Only bigger and better and smarter and more audacious and altogether magisterial."
I think it's wonderful that she's able to capture this complex spirit in photos of his studio. In the book there's a short Q&A with Sally Mann and Edmund de Waal. He mentions that she manages to balance, as a photographer, being "totally involved" and also "forensic." She replies:
"Well, that is very nice to hear because one always hopes that there is some degree of transcendence. On one level this work is a rather focused examination of an artist's working place and the things left behind, but the hope is that it holds a greater sense of manifold truths about a life, through both the evidence and inspiration."
It's not a huge book, but it's a consolation for not being able to get to the actual show of photographs. And for me, it's a reminder that the artist's studio is a process itself, a lifelong work in progress.
And so, as I do once in a while, I took some photographs of the studio in my basement. As I was shooting, I was thinking about the process as recording 'evidence and inspiration,' as Mann says.
It's funny, I suppose, but when I go down there, I just find myself wishing it was, well, nicer. But he's been working in this space and spaces like it his whole over 30 year career. It's not a glamorous space, won't be in Elle Decor, or anywhere like that any time soon. But it's where he produces, IMHO, quite marvellous work.
It's a work space. And there's evidence of his vast reading, and collecting, and thinking about art.
It's evidence that you don't need anywhere amazing to make wonderful things, to make a life in art. Here he is in an unfinished basement in the suburbs of a Northern city in Canada, doing what he loves. And that's something. It's really something.