The art opening fed my soul. The artist, who is in her eighties, was not there, as she suffered a stroke a week ago and is still hospitalized. The good news is, she is recovering well and will return home to her family this week. This assurance came from her son, the youngest of her eight children, who represented his mother wonderfully last night, and told very moving stories of growing up watching her do her art, even as the family struggled financially in the rural South.
The book agent was there with her daughter, a lovely young woman who is a Barnard graduate, and she and I bonded over our shared alma mater. The agent had apparently told the artist's son about me, and when she introduced me to him by name, he said, "I am so happy to meet you at last!" He acted as if my being attached to the book project was a done deal, and the agent acted that way too, as if all that remains is to work out terms and scheduling. She assured me again that they'd work around my current commitments, and so I am allowing myself to be cautiously excited.
I have worked with this woman before, first when I was in my early thirties and she hired me as an editor at a publishing house. Later, after we both left that job she tapped me to work on a book she was packaging. It became the first book I ever had published. If this sounds familiar, it's because I posted about it back in May, when after two decades of no contact, she and I met for lunch, and the art book first became a whisper in my ear.
Last night, I told her daughter that her mother had always been a rock star, at which point her mother shuddered and confessed, "I'm a little embarrassed by some of my behavior back then." I assured her she was fine, at least from where I stood. She was demanding as a boss, but I appreciated her clarity and perfectionism. I always knew just what she wanted, which made producing it easier. I don't have any trepidation about working with her again, though the parameters of the project do seem a little loose right now. I'm not particularly good at living with the unresolved but something tells me I need to just let what's happening here unfold.
The photo is a scene I snapped from the car window on my way home from last night's show. I didn't take any photos at the gallery. I was busy talking with interesting people. We all kept our masks on, though, so I wonder if I'd recognize any of them again. Probably only the artist's son, whose Southern drawl was distinctive, and whose eyes when he talked about his mother's work finally gaining the recognition it has long deserved, were alive with wonder and joy.
Of course, last night's event burned off all my socializing fuel so I'm grateful to have nothing on tap for today. I'll be able to recharge with just my husband, and my son who's coming by later, while keeping a pleasant distance from the world. I've also this morning completed editing a book proposal that took me all month. The proposal is longer and denser than many books, but it's beautifully written and frames a truly important work. The agent who asked me to do the edit said she wanted to leave no doubt that this is "a big book"—in the field of art scholarship of all things.
It turns out that engaging with this proposal gave me a rich education in an aspect of American art that will serve me well in the next project, assuming it happens. Life can be so serendipitous and good. And now, I finally feel ready to turn back to the collaborative project that's already on my desk. I think I really needed a summer of reading exquisite writers to reclaim my writing self, if that makes any sense.