Monday, April 09, 2012
Luis Quintanilla in prison in Madrid, 1934
If this exposition of dry points by Luis Quintanilla had been two months ago, the list of patrons would have been headed by His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador, His Excellency the American Ambassador to Spain and followed by other dignitaries and names of people.
As it is there are no patrons, the artist is in jail in Madrid charged with being a member of the revolutionary committee of the October revolt in Spain with the prosecuting attorney asking a sentence of sixteen years at hard labor for him, and the only excellencies are in these magnificent etchings.
Good Spanish painters are always in trouble. It is a country where the tradition is, and it may be a foolish tradition, I will not argue it with you, that a man should be a man as well as an artist.
from a preface he wrote to the Pierre Matisse Gallery Catalogue, "Quintanilla"
On Easter Eve a package arrived from Lulu, which besides being a provocative name for a lady is also the name of publishing company that prints and distributes books by order for authors. My old friend Paul Quintanilla has used it for a number of years, most usually for works of and about his late father, Luis Quintanilla. Another friend in Ontario used it to publish an amazing cookbook of Danish recipes, which my wife's family treats like a bible.
Inside the package was a new book Paul has written with the wonderful title you see in the subject line above. I haven't had time to read it all but it seems to be part fact and part fiction. Or maybe it's fact dressed up in fiction. But the great Ernesto---and his beard---are in it. The very first chapter shows him to us...and obviously Paul can do this intimately. But he remains a voyeur in these pages, not engaging in conversation---quite wisely, we discover. However, we meet Hemingway accompanying an unknown woman (Simone de Beauvoir?) entering a small restaurant in Paris, and sitting within arm's reach of the author. But we don't know yet who precisely the author is, and we may never know, but we must read on to find out.
Paul did not let me know he was doing this...either writing or sending me a complimentary copy. That's just like him! I stopped blogging almost exactly a year ago as a major change transpired into my life. I hadn't done much writing for a year before that, except emails, chat, and comments in the addictive Facebook. Paul continued a partnership into Facebook, but once I vanished from there several months ago we haven't been communicating. I thought about him often and kept meaning to write him a note explaining my seclusion, but you know how that goes. So now I know what he's been up to...and this is how I find out!
The first chapter, about seeing someone famous and not knowing what to do about it, is an ingenious way to begin. Surely we've all had an experience like this. People are famous because we ordinaries feel a connection with them. They express things we feel ourselves and they do so in a way that makes us feel we know them as friends...even as lovers. Obviously this arrangement becomes deadly for the famous one, who now must deal with country bumpkins like myself coming up to them and slapping them on the back. But we can't help it: just perhaps the star is just waiting for a relationship with someone who understands so well as I do. We want to risk it.
It brings to mind my occasion around 1970 or so, of walking up Fifth Avenue with my partner at the time, Ivy. Suddenly, DOWN the street, walking briskly toward us, came Harold Pinter and his then-wife Vivien Merchant. Each was on the opposite side of the wide sidewalk, and one could see instantly they weren't speaking. I mean not speaking as in the midst of a huge fight. They both appeared angry, and as with such theatre people they expert in expressing it...with icy silence. As they stormed past us, we were caught in the middle---and we actually shivered with the abrupt change of temperature.
Obviously this was no time to announce our recognition or, God forbid, ask for an autograph. Vivien might have pulled herself together, but Pinter would have blasted us off the face of the earth, or frozen us to death with a black glare. An encounter like that stays with one forever---or I guess I should say lack-of-encounter. I suddenly was in a Pinter Play! I had a new understanding of the famous "Pinter pause." Nothing can annihilate like silence. Of course, nothing can enlighten one like it either.
Well, thanks to Paul publicly for the book---and for the silence too, out of which obvious he has created a new work of art. I would be remiss not to urge you to visit Lulu, and consider a copy for delicious summertime reading. Here ya go~~~