The vaginal stylings of Georgia O’Keeffe have always left me cold. Even a late-breaking fondness for cow skulls and a trip to Santa Fe have not worn away at my indifference. I am similarly bored by Mondrian’s linear jazzblah. Sometimes things resonate; sometimes not.
And yet! Once in a while, unfair kneejerk aesthetic judgments keep one from appreciating other facets of an artist. I was really excited to encounter the following in this interview with Bob Balaban:
Georgia O’Keeffe was taught something—I don’t know why I’m launching into this—she said some instructor of hers told her this, and she used to tell it to her students: “Your life is your art as well as the thing you call your art.” If you’re a painter, the way you come home and arrange the objects on your shelves, that’s part of your life and part of your art. I think of that when I think of Wes. He is every inch the thing that Georgia O’Keeffe said. It’s in the movie; it’s in his personal life. You can’t just suddenly create yourself as this person who is the director. There’s just one you, and the more you can realize that and draw from that, I think it’s what we’re all trying to do.
Ah! This line of thinking is so up my alley, the idea of one’s work and one’s environment and one’s aesthetic all being knit together, inseparable, different facets of the same thing (the artist). I know some writers who would regard this as a giant meh, but indifference to one’s surroundings and appearance are choices too, suggesting perhaps minimalist or unadorned or possibly abstract or purely cerebral prose. (I recall someone paraphrasing William Gass on a parallel subject, something about a chair being a chair – but clearly, I am hungry to know whether the chair is ladder-back, a Barcalounger, Eames, whatever.)
At a recent writing group, we discussed how the diction of a first-person teen narrator occasionally elevated into possibly problematic territory. Something about it tripped me up, though I am usually a tireless advocate for elevated diction, whether a story warrants it or not. During the course of the conversation, someone generously tried to make the case that one story of mine used elevated diction for dramatic purposes, but that’s not usually the case. I just love convoluted language (Deadwood!).
Anyhoo. That section of the Balaban interview was obviously about Moonrise Kingdom, and I’ve been a Wes Anderson fan from Bottle Rocket on, though the latter displayed only hints of the kind of visual language that would emerge fully-formed in Rushmore – the stuff that now people ding as airless self-parody, overly-mannered, etc., etc. Moonrise Kingdom is not my favorite Wes Anderson movie, but it’s not my least favorite, and just as I tend to avoid the work of artists whose work I am indifferent to, I tend to cut slack to those chasing an impulse or vision that resonates with me. To each his own.