The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Sculptor Anne Truitt on pathways between connection and privacy

Rachael Conlin Levy

A thread through the labryinth

“When I write about myself, I ‘interview’ myself,” sculptor Anne Truitt said. “There is a gap between the life I have lived and live, and the life I write. Partly this is the inevitable gap between experience and expression, partly what I make by deliberate choice.”

Truitt (1921-2004), known for her minimalist sculptures and her insightful writings about her life and work, wrote in her 1996 book “Prospect: The Journal of an Artist” how she approached the public intersection of art and life with respect, maybe even hesitation.

“I am as honest as I can be about what I write–that is a moral imperative–but I ‘retain my reticences’: I omit, abbreviate, abridge and retrench. The keep of my castle remains private.”

Drawing boundary lines are personal; this blog is where I’m most vulnerable, yet also most composed. What I choose to write reveals one truth, while what remains unwritten hints at another. The contradiction blurs the accuracy of my reflection. This is a game, a dance, a flirtation that is simultaneously diverting and desperate, because at its root is the futile attempt to prevent time’s erasure of myself.

Truitt’s gap between the lived and the documented life is a place of uncertainty, a porous border where storytelling and myth-making can occur. One of the first to work in this fluid space was the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484 BC – 425 BC), whose work knitted myth into reality in order to arrive at truth.

“I write these things as they seem true to me, for the stories told by the Greeks are various and in my opinion absurd,” Herodotus said.

Where fact and fiction blur is also where the personal face overlays the public facade. Word layered over word creates a pentimento of  layered meaning like the old advertisements painted on the sides of brick buildings. Image atop image forms the double exposure created within a darkened window’s reflection, simultaneously revealing and obscuring.

Buswriter #1

As a writer in need of readers, I exist in the liminal space of social media. Like Truitt, I curate myself, selecting, organizing, presenting a version I both am and would like to be. Here’s one example:

I ignored the light, sprinted the intersection to catch the bus, pried open the backdoor as it left the curb. “Where’d you come from?” the driver called back. “You’re fast. You came outta nowhere. You’re a ninja.” I smiled and chose a seat in the shadows. #seattle #buswriter

— Rachael Conlin Levy (@slowsentences) February 28, 2019

This dust mote of story was first published on my Twitter account, which I use as a vehicle for sharing interesting reads, sentences that inspire, or flash (non)fiction like “Buswriter.”

Later, I sifted through my Flickr account and found the above self-portrait to illustrate the story. Together the two were reposted on Instagram, my most active account on social media because I enjoy the interplay between word and image. I’ve a Facebook account, too, where I repost blog entries and follow group threads for roller derby and climate action.

How do you use the internet as an artist or writer? Has it changed over time? Where do you hang out? How do you differentiate between public and private life?

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