A Novel about Art and Artists

I’m still in Oklahoma. At the coffee shop again after a day of chores and a visit to a lawyer concerning legal matters concerning my brother.  Death is not an easy thing to deal with.  To relieve some stress, I mowed my parents three acre yard. I’m going to a dinner theatre tonight, a performance of Smoke on the Mountain. Should have a grand time.
Whitney Otto: The Passion Dream Book

I just finished reading Whitney Otto’s The Passion Dream Book. The author also wrote the New York Times best seller, How to Make an American Quilt. Having enjoyed this read, I’ve also added How to Make an American Quilt to my reading list.

The Passion Dream Book is a complex novel, a novel of ideas centered around art, artists, and the relationships of artist to patron and of artist to fellow artist. Rich in allusions and historical details as well as brief snapshot synopses of many artists (painters, writers, dancers, singers), I found this novel a rich and rewarding read.  Personally, it was also a timely read, for it addresses many of the issues I think about and face as I focus on promoting my own art.  Otto speaks of art as ephemeral, smoky, and shape-shifting. I underscored many, many lines in this novel. Here are some quotations I really liked:

About the nature of artists:
Romy (central character) discovers “early on that a crowd of artists are too outside, too removed from the rules of the general public, and too egocentric to care” ( (94-95).

“[H]ome is where your art is” (125).

“That’s the problem of the colony of artists; they are a small group who seldom go outside their tribe. The life of a secret under these circumstances is brief” (181).

“You need to be connected with other people, and these connections often lead to love. In contradiction, you need to be alone. If you are alone, they you are leaving your loved ones alone. If they are alone too much, they might find someone new who won’t leave them alone so much. If you are always alone, what life do you have to put into your work?” (202).

The “work of an artist is emotional work” (267).

About art:
“America’s near refusal to support art and artists at all” (147). [This would be in contrast to ancient Florence and Venice that honored and supported artists generously].

After a brilliant discussion of how rich and powerful patrons of the arts needed artists to insure immortality, Otto says of the artists: “Artists . . . saw the power and money and need of their patrons as a way of doing their work” (2).

I found a great summary of Otto and her work here: http://www.writersontheedge.org/otto.html