I/Eye: On Photography


Posted in The Afterlife of Objects, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on October 27, 2009
Untitled (Alameda, 2009) © Sheila Newbery

Untitled (Alameda, 2009) © Sheila Newbery

Speck was an expert on barges, bridges, cafés at twilight, nudes on striped counterpanes, the artist’s mantlepiece with mirror, the artist’s street, his staircase, his bed made and rumpled, his still life with half-peeled apple, his summer in Mexico, his wife reading a book, his girlfriend naked and dejected on a kitchen chair. He knew that the attraction of customer to picture was always accidental, like love; it was his business to make it overwhelming. Visitors came to the gallery looking for decoration and investment, left it believing Speck had put them on the road to a supreme event. But there was even more to Speck than this, and if he was respected for anything in the trade it was for his knack with artists’ widows. Most dealers hated them. They were considered vain, greedy, unrealistic, and tougher than bulldogs. The worst were those whose husbands had somehow managed the rough crossing to recognition only to become washed up at the wrong end of the beach. There the widow waited, guarding the wreckage. Speck’s skill in dealing with them came out of a certain sympathy. An artist’s widow was bound to be suspicious and adamant. She had survived the discomfort and confusion of her marriage; had lived through the artist’s drinking, his avarice, his affairs, his obsession with constipation, his feuds and quarrels, his cowardice with dealers, his hypocrisy with critics, his depressions (which always fell at the most joyous seasons, blighting Christmas and spring); and then—oh justice!—she had outlasted him.

—-Mavis Gallant, “Speck’s Idea”, Paris Stories (New York Review Books, 2002)

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