PROSPECT: The Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt

PROSPECT: The Journal of an Artist

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The sculptor's third meditation on life and art (after Daybook, 1982; Turn, 1986) triumphs in its clearheadedness but fails to satisfy in its paths of resolution. As in Turn, Truitt explores the end of the life cycle, this time structuring her work around her 70th year, when she is regaled for decades of achievement with a major retrospective in New York yet penalized with mandatory retirement at the University of Maryland. The gravity of the events is unsettling; she calls herself ""officially old."" Although she muses briefly throughout the memoir on the physical manifestations of aging--diminished energy and the need for improved safety measures in the house--she concentrates on how her mind refines itself with age. This means engaging in the ""interplay [between past and present] that is making aging the most interesting thing that has ever happened to me."" Such interplay involves central elements of her life--her children, her artistic career, the artists' colony Yaddo (for which she had been acting director), historical figures who embody her personal truths, the natural world around her. Her observations are wise in their understanding of limits and psychology, and true to her lifelong admiration for the Stoic philosophers, but the effect by book's end is somewhat cramped and final. Appreciated are her patches of animation, which show up in her analyses of her artworks and the work of critics, particularly those who attempt the ""invidious"" practice of ascribing motive to an artist's work. Also welcome are the quirky anecdotes, like that of the pilgrimage to one of her grade-school teachers, who informed her that--despite Truitt's view of herself as a youthful rebel--she had not been an interesting child. Though at times enervating in its stoicism and sureness, this invites thought about the intellectual flavor of life's final years. It is an honorable goal; if only this particular trip had been more involving for those acompanying Truitt.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Scribner