Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 8th, Jeanne DeMuth Alnot

Jeanne DeMuth Alnot, wrote a wonderful non fiction piece on two paintings in the gallery she chose. The work she did speaks for itself.

The Collection
in response to Giovanni Paolo Panini’s Modern Rome and Ancient Rome

by Jeanne DeMuth Alnot

I accumulate. Image and concept and connection. Together, they must, I’m sure of it, coalesce to form a coherent whole.

Panini corroborates and contradicts, defying me to generate meaning from the dispersed. In life. In art. Ancient Rome and Modern Rome mock the idea of convergence. Tableaus layered but not melded.

Ruins are times passed and overlapping. Cityscapes are places concurrent though discrete.

More than can be grasped together.

The limitation of perception and consciousness.

Time running backwards and forwards, forwards and back. The ancient gives way to the modern; the modern decays into the ancient.

And the deliberation of men, the urge to reconcile and apprehend, the need for information to condense into knowledge.

I accumulate. Like Panini, I hoard and layer, ideas stacking up in my brain. If I study the picture long enough, if I slave enough over the tablet and master plan, can I render my stash in massive, dusty tomes, complete records and narratives that describe everything at once? Panini’s tomes, my tomes, half the size of men, half the size of my body?

Panini’s men, in rapt deliberation. Amid the cluttered world.

Surrounded by statues. The transformation of flesh to stone.

The confirmation of isolation.

I accumulate. Yet what if the fragments will not all cooperate, will not distill, as Panini attests, into that hard-sought, unified whole? If I force fusion I must make reductive representation. It is only a handful here, a cluster there that consent to align.

My striving pen, my amassing trove.

The Experience: Museum writing is a habit of mine, so the milieu of the exercise was not new to me. The constraints, however, were entirely novel. As a nonfiction writer, I find the requirement to produce something essentially complete in a day or two unrealistic. It forced me to work off the cuff, creating a super-short that is essentially reactive in nature. By contrast, my proclivity is to write longer, deliberative essays. The Met project certainly pushed me outside my comfort zone.

Jeanne DeMuth Alnot earned her M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. A native of Iowa, she has also lived in New Jersey, Paris, Thailand, and Brooklyn. She is a former staff member of the journal Lumina, and her work has appeared in Two Review.

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