marlene mountain
letter essay
january 1987

women's art

dear mep   1/28/87

It was wonderful for me to talk with you. Your opinions, responses, and encouragements are very valuable to me. We share many understandings--and over the years have shared much of our personal lives with each other. You have always been my dear dear friend--especially during those times in my life when things looked so bleak. I treasure our friendship. Your patience.

Often I've thought as I've written/talked about women's art, that I've somehow stressed 'those out there'--in the magazines and books--who have had such an impact on me----and nothing to speak of about you and your art, and your impact I've experience since 1962. Neither of us then--and I guess no women anywhere at the time--had the perspective of what women's art was. You were always more of a 'woman' in your art than I.* And tho from the beginning I have loved all your art, with these past years of a new perspective, can love it even more.

* Often I have denigrated all that I've written and painted before my 'enlightment' as male art. This of course is not true--my early landscapes and drawings and much of my haiku, and those early love poems came from my femaleness. But the shock I had on that fateful night in August (the most meaningful event in my whole life, again due to you) was not the same for you. I would LOVE to see you write about your experience when you understood Women's Art. Was there a certain time, a book, a slow revelation? PLEASE try to write about it.

I want you to know that much of your being has had a wonderful postive influence on me. For instance, those poems you shared in your UM studio--even tho I don't remember them, except one being about a turtle--caused the idea to sink into my consciousness that 'regular' people could write poems. I was eventually to write some myself. And those wonderful female figures--in the midst of 'abstract expressionism' and 'Quirt-like' paintings which abounded--stood out and have continued to stand out vividly. Even tho I made those male/female and female woodcuts, and had drawn many many female figures in the past, my mind was beginning to head elsewhere. To the window assembledges, and finally to the minimal statements they inspired. I often regret this progression, tho really I ought not to. It was an inevitable direction, and an exciting time for me over the years. Yet I cannot help but wonder what I might have painted if I had not been grabbed by the 'pure' and the 'formal.' (Oddly enough these elements are still in my paintings and writings, tho now with a strong emotional content. So maybe not all of the past is to be 'put down.')

All along your art has been meaningful. It was especially important to me when I wasn't painting during those long lost 10 years. I loved that you were painting and what you were painting. And I was always saddened when you had periods of not painting. More so about you than the fact that I wasn't painting. I of course was busy with haiku, going toward the formal, minimal and pure that I sought in it. So I've had a double-shock of reevaluating my approach to content/form.

Anyway, all this to say I appreciate you and your art. Your meaningfullness, your underlying influence. But even more. Don't stop making your woman's art, don't let other things interfere; keep your committment. I'm a big fan and want to wee what else will come from you.

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