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Beauty and Doubt

Post #1805 • March 15, 2018, 12:53 PM

[Image: Bill Scott, Leaf and Line, 2017, oil on canvas, 63 x 42 inches]

Bill Scott, Leaf and Line, 2017, oil on canvas, 63 x 42 inches

Tonight, "Bill Scott: Leaf and Line" opens at Hollis Taggart. The beautiful catalogue features essays by Philadelphia poet Jim Cory, Tom Csaszar, Vincent Desiderio, Evan Fugazzi, Aubrey Levinthal, art historian Charles Stuckey, Woodmere Art Museum director William R. Valerio, and yours truly. My contribution is in the writing archive.

Bill is the real deal. I wrote about him for Art in America back in 2012. Since then I've done a few studio visits with him in Philadelphia. We've gone to the Barnes together. His erudition about painting is extraordinary, but lots of people are book-smart about painting. Bill is rare because of the energy he brings to looking, acute, awed, and a little fearful.

The fear is a natural consequence of taking painting seriously, getting bowled over by Matisse or Gauguin or whomever (for me it's usually Prendergast) at the Barnes, going back to the studio, and failing to get a canvas into some kind of presentable order. This is the likely outcome even for someone with Bill's talents. For me it's nearly an inevitability. Victory, or at least non-defeat, is on the other side of a lot of averted disaster.

Every now and then someone, usually not an artist, proposes that my soul must be fairly well soothed by being able to practice my art. It's not, and I haven't found an adequate way to describe why. The last time it came up I answered that thanks to art, my soul consists mostly of scar tissue. I immediately felt bad about being melodramatic. But there's a truth there, if not a complete one. That joy in the result doesn't come easy.

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