Working on my soon-to-be-released novel Freefall: A DivineComedy has made me see how art strips the artist bare, leaving him/her fully exposed. This dynamic is true for literary as well as visual artists, perhaps even more so. Writers mine all parts of their psyches in order to explore characters, emotions, themes, thoughts, desires, impulses, and so much more. In the process, they expose themselves, revealing the ways in which these aspects of self originate in the writer herself.
In creating a world in Freefallwhere four sixty-year old women friends meet after not seeing each other for close to forty years, I’ve shown how each of these females represent some aspect of myself. In psychological jargon, they can be seen as projections of hidden aspects (no longer hidden!) of my personality. And while Tillie, the main character is not me exactly (even though her name rhymes with “Lily”), she acts out the visual artist I would be if I had another life. Through her, I’m able to feel my way into the worldview of this particular artist and also enter her philosophical musings thus seeing my surroundings through her eyes, her perspective.
But Tillie isn’t the only artist in Freefall. Her former lover/roommate Frank is a photographer who used Tillie as his model in his recent photographs. He filmed the naked Tillie many times, doing close-ups of each of her body parts. During her time in Venice, Tillie steps into the Kats Paw Gallery and learns that Frank has beaten her to Venice with his photographs and achieved the success she still seeks. This passage from Freefallcaptures that moment:
All of the photos he took of her body parts, shot in minute detail, are hung separately. Individually, none of the parts are recognizable as hers. That’s some consolation. Nor do they resemble what they actually are. The crease in her left elbow looks like a child’s hairless pubic area. Erotic. Her nostrils, photographed from below and up-close (everything is up-close), appear to be twin train tunnels or the openings to mysterious caves. The sweep of her back, dunes in the desert. The profile of an erect nipple, a sacred temple.
And what does this display reveal about Frank? That he’s intent in exploring the female body and what each part might suggest, as the above imagery shows, representing more than what its actual role is. Of course, that’s one aspect of metaphor (and metaphor’s power). Most things we look at have a correlative, just as metaphoric images make concrete abstract ideas: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso
Just as Frank focuses on Tillie’s individual parts in his photos, so, too, do I, Tillie’s creator focus on various bits of my inner life in order to compose this book-length narrative.