From Our Soundbooth | June 28, 2012

Last week Sarah Handelman, a former intern who is in working as a freelance designer in London, emailed me a blog posting about an exhibit at Mayor Gallery of 44 of Sylvia Plath’s pen and ink drawings. Many of these detailed images of farm animals and house pets, ordinary objects such as women’s shoes, an umbrella and a Chianti bottle, and scenes of small town life have been included in biographies and the afterwards of her novel The Bell Jar but I have never seen them assembled as a collection. More than her poetry, her sketches show a love for the simple and homey. There’s nothing dark and disturbing here.

Like Plath, many artists are adept at more than one medium. This is true of the authors collected in The Writer’s Brush: Painting, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers by Donald Freidman. The dust jacket features one of Plath’s cubist inspired paintings, “Two Reading Women,” which shows a sophisticated use of color, texture and perspective that’s not apparent in her quaint, rather straightforward sketches.

The coffee-table sized book is full of surprises. Faulkner’s artwork couldn’t be more at odds with his much-admired dark, lyric novels about the South. Influenced by the Art Nouveau style of popular illustrators such as Aubrey Beardsley and John Held, Faulkner produced handmade, illustrated books as gifts. He often took as his subjects the flappers and their beaus and set them against the backdrop of parties and social clubs. If Sherwood Anderson had not suggested that he write a novel, he might have tried to make a career of illustrating for fashion magazines.

Another favorite is E.E. Cummings, who studied art in Paris, hung out with Picasso, and published a collection of ninety-nine drawings and paintings. The pieces featured in The Writer’s Brush show a whimsical, gestural, colorful style. He never struggled to reconcile his desire to both write and paint, believing that the function of all the arts is “the expression of that supreme aliveness which is known as ‘beauty.’”


Kris Somerville is the marketing coordinator of The Missouri Review