Interesting to me for a number of reasons, most of them obvious--one of them local, as there is a Cooperstown connection--is this article, "The Diminution of Women Writers: An American Tradition." I'm not surprised that the author mentions Hawthorne's influence on Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, and his dislike for much of the "scribbling" mob of women. I adore Hawthorne and always feel congenial with him, but wouldn't it be good to have some stories by Sophia, and not just her paintings? The writer gives Constance Fenimore Woolson, named in part after her great-uncle, James Fenimore Cooper, as a prime example: "Woolson’s work and career are a reminder that women’s literary ambitions are not a recent phenomenon. She was a writer who aimed for and reached the heights of literary recognition, despite even greater obstacles than those facing women writers today." She and Henry James were very close friends--close enough to have destroyed their letters to each other--and she influenced his work. Various people have suggested that The Beast in the Jungle is based on his feeling for Constance Fenimore Woolson. I have read that it was William Dean Howells who buried her reputation as a writer after her suicide, and unfortunately James did not defend her in print. Now her books are at last on the rise again.
Painter Yolanda Sharpe reminded me of the case of married painters Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, and how Pollock received far more attention. So I dug up this marvelous little quote from ARTnews (1949): "There is a tendency among some of these wives to 'tidy up' their husband's styles. Lee Krasner (Mrs. Jackson Pollock) takes her husband's paint and enamels and changes his unrestrained, sweeping lines into neat little squares and triangles." Aren't those phrases interesting? The name of the show, the tidying wife, the "Mrs. Jackson Pollock," the neatness, the "littleness." "Some of these wives." So the reviewer "sees" that masculine lack of restrain and "sweeping" lines beat female, so little and neat. (I find it hard to apply either adjective to Lee Krasner.)
And painter Ashley Cooper reminded me of the much-shared article about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, "Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art." I went back and looked at it again, Frida Kahlo photographed in what the journalist calls her "foolish little ruffled apron," tied over a black silk dress. She is "a miniature-like little person." Her "miniature-like technique" is opposed to the "heroic" figures of Rivera. The author clearly admires the work, though, describing "a skillful and beautiful style." Perhaps the most interesting element in the article is how well Kahlo knows that it is useless to defend her work or expose her secret ambition, and how she employs truth and laughter. He is the art star, come to Detroit to paint his Detroit industry murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts, and her own work is just beginning to flower. Listen to how she tells the truth of what she knows is inside her, beginning to break forth: "Of course, he does pretty well for a little boy, but it is I who am the big artist." She laughs and mocks her questioner, but in the end she is right. At that moment, he is the better artist. Later on, she will surpass him.
And for a postscript, a little Emily Dickinson and Billy Collins...