Being a very good artist and being in love, preferably simultaneously, was, I felt sure, the destiny assigned to me. A steady job, diplomas, marriage, children, a house - in my mind, these were not requirements on the road to my particular capital D Destiny.
I worked in downtown Manhattan at Jack Tworkov’s studio for a while, next door to Willem de Kooning. The Abstract Expressionist movement was in full swing and intrigued me though I didn’t think I belonged there. Tworkov, one of the major Ab/Ex painters, had a hands-off approach to teaching. He didn’t try to influence you, only to encourage you to find and develop your own ‘voice’.This suited me very well but I fluctuated impatiently between styles, ways of seeing, media, techniques.
I also had Projects, always one or more Projects demanding much concentration. Writing has always lived alongside visual art in my life. One of my Projects at the time was an illustrated book: The Do-It-Yourself Handbook for Neurotics ( I later changed to: Is Happiness Really Necessary?) I was probably the only one among my friends in New York who wasn’t seeing a shrink, partly because I couldn’t have afforded one and partly because I didn’t give much credence to head-shrinkage. The book was a satire on this theme, black ink drawings and brief text. When ready I sent it round - an agent and a few other people liked it. I got rejections from top American publishers. Not too discouraged, I turned it into a photo-story, got some friends to pose for the parts and photographer George Cserna took terrific shots of the scenes. This project didn’t sell either. Eventually I turned it into a dance-mime play which was performed by students at a school in Putney, Vermont. All the illustrations, rejection letters etc. are sitting in boxes which I’ve been digging into for this memoir.
More to come, watch this space.
|Spring. NdA 1951|
|Autumn. NdA 1951|
|Illustration from The Do It Yourself Handbook for Neurotics, NdA 1951-55|
|Part of photo-story version of The Do-It-Yourself Handbook for Neurotics. Photo by George Cserna|
|Studio Still-Life. NdA 1951|