It's summertime. I know it is because the calendar tells me so. I will therefore go on living my life pretending to attend to summertime things. Things that beg for a lack of rain and cold nights. (I have an active imagination.) Part of this imagination includes living other people's lives, vicariously, through books and film.
I received a book from a friend recently that prompted me to organize a list of novels and films that render the illusive artist's life. The American Painter Emma Dial tells the story of an artist who is wasting away as an assistant to a fabulously famous painter - a painter who happens to do none of his own paintings since he took on this talented female assistant. With just a little hint of late 1980's Slaves of New York, the downtown art scene still appears to thrive on cigarettes and liquor. William Faulkner's Mosquitoes will share sordid details with you about the New Orleans Bohemian side of the tracks. A hilarious tale of art colonists gone awry is T. Coragessen Boyle's East is East. An off-kilter Japanese sailor jumps ship along the coast of Georgia in search of the American melting pot, but instead ends up trapped on a small island, home to a fashionably uptight art colony. Hollywood fell in love with the NY art world in the 1990's. Some of the better movies that tell that illusionistic tale: "Basquiat" by Julian Schnabel (who is a much better film maker than painter), and "I Shot Andy Warhol".
"Van Gogh", starring Jacques Dutronc, is a dark and gorgeous film, not a romantic telling of the Van Gogh myth. Speaking of dark, wait until a truly warm day to watch "Girl with a Pearl Earring". You will feel the cold Dutch winter leak out of your TV screen. Kristin at Myopic Books suggests Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved. "An artist's son is misanthropic and turns into a sort of strange violent counter culture figure...very much a page turner and you should read it!" I also enjoyed The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, Hustvedt's second book. One of the narrative threads in this odd mystery focuses on a NY painter, transplanted for the summer to a small town, painting misfits' portraits. Many of Steven Millhauser's stories deal with artists who fall into the worlds they create, or try hard to create worlds they can control. In William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive one of the characters is built around a loner artist who creates Joseph Cornell-like assemblages that a mysterious collector buys, supposedly a reference to Mark Pauline of Survival Research Lab.
That's a stay-cation that never gets written about: pretend you're at an art colony! Get someone to make your meals for you, don't do your laundry, and lounge under a giant tree with several good books about artists and their fabled exploits. Just make sure the grass is dry before you move in.