Frank Chimero Writing Archive
This an archive of old writing. Visit my main site for current work.

On Avedon, On Vonnegut

There are very few artists that I put up on a pedestal. But, man, sometimes something just hits you with such clarity and concentration that it knocks you over, harrows you out, and then fills you back up again. It’s like the work of that artist changed around your chemical make-up. You’re the same glass, but you’re filled with something “different” from that point on.

I had one of those moments earlier this summer when viewing the Richard Avedon exhibit at the San Francisco MoMA. Which is surprising, since I’m not a large photography fan, me being an illustrator and all. We get on like cats and dogs. But, there’s something about this image:

That’s Avedon with Twiggy during a photoshoot for Harper’s Bazaar. It was probably the tiniest print in the show, but it knocked me on my ass. My only response to it was “Oh, yeah, so this is how I’m supposed to be living.” It’s not often you’re confronted with a piece of art that so clearly presents you with your own definition of success for your life. Avedon looks like he’s at the pinnacle of fun and he’s working. The whole show was an intense emotional experience for me, and the first time in a long while I had experienced the aura of creative work with that “x-quality.”

Tonight, I got that feeling again. I went through my bookshelf to find something to read and decided to start rereading Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut. I finished the first chapter, and I was on my ass, again, in the presence of something pristine and bigger than myself.

And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes. People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore. I’ve finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun. This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt.

The greatest art calls you to action: Avedon makes you want to pick up a camera and hope that you’re a genius like he was. And Vonnegut made me write this. I guess what I’m saying is, “Thanks, guys.”

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