Monday, July 30, 2007

Anne Truitt

I wanted to bring attention to this post by Tyler Green, regarding Anne Truitt on his blog Modern Art News. Truitt died in 2004, at the age of 83, in Washington, DC. It has been said that it is she who started the minimalist movement. She resisted being called a minimalist. She felt her work was different from that movement in that it was created with her own hands, while the minimalists tended to be working with the manipulation of industrial materials.

It is hard to explain Truitt's work or one's deep attraction to it. Truitt's work is so simple that it feels too obvious. I understand that her life was moved by color. In the way a savant must understand numbers, I think Truitt understood color and shape. It was intuitive and unexplainable. The Hirshhorn is planning a Truitt retrospective in 2008, which prompted my reflection on her. Surprisingly, there are only a few examples of her work that I have found on the web. The one above is too small and lame. I like Truitt's picture looming over the art.

I read Daybook: Journal of an Artist by Truitt years ago. It inspired a long period of work for me that was better than any I have known since. Her struggle with trying to make art on a confined schedule resonated for me at the time and helped me work long into the night. I have had few periods since then where my imagination so clearly took over and lifted me. I feel I owe that period to her inspiration. Daybook is revered by writer Jesse Larsen as one of the 500 Great Books by Women. If you like diarists and/or art, Truit's Daybook is well worth your time.

Anne Truitt is a Marylander. Although born in Baltimore, she was mostly embraced and claimed by DC, where her studio was for many years. She grew up in Easton, Maryland on the shore, where legend has it that she was apparently so visually impaired as a young child, that it was not until she got glasses that she realized that trees had individual leaves. She saw only shapes and masses of color. Some attribute the quality of her work to this childhood condition.

"I've struggled all my life to get maximum meaning in the simplest possible form," she said in an interview with The Washington Post in 1987. "That's what I've spent my life doing, and it's never been understood."

Is "it", or are we, ever "understood"?

Truitt worked in isolation in her studio through the years. The isolation is critical to the work, so often. And perhaps it is the isolation that creates the feeling of distance and a mild paranoia. One seems not to be able to have both society and art, garrulousness and introspection, understanding and revolutionary work.

Finally, this from Daybook. Truitt reflects on human legacy as she sits at the National Gallery:

"I sat for a long while in one of the rectangular courtyards, listening to the fountain. Feeling the artists all around me, I slowly took an unassuming place (for two of my own sculptures were somewhere in the museum) among the people whose lives, as all lives do, had been distilled into objects that outlasted them. Quilts, pin cushions, chairs, tables, houses, sculptures, paintings, tilled and retilled fields, gardens, poems -- all of validity and integrity. Like earthworms, whose lives are spent making more earth, we human beings also spend ourselves into the physical. A few of us leave behind objects judged, at least temporarily, worthy of preservation by the culture into which we were born. The process is, however, the same for us all. Ordered into the physical, in time we leave the physical, and leave behind us what we have made in the physical."

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