Artist Statement

Letters to Courbet


 

Dear Gustave,
My love, why must you torture me like this? It's been a month since our last correspondence. Have you been counting the days? I have.
With love,
S.

 

Dear Gustave,
I keep thinking of our last embrace. Why were you so cold, why did you avert your gaze? You seemed so far away. Are you done with me? Please, let me know so I can move on.
That’s a lie, I don’t want to move on from you. You’re stuck with me.
Please respond,
S.


Dear Gustave,
I have an inspired idea. Our son saw my printouts of your work in my studio and asked if I could paint him in your likeness. I will turn this into a series. I will take all of your self portraits and paint our son in your stead. Isn’t it adorable? He wants to be just like papa.
If I show you how dedicated I am to you, will you finally respond?
Please respond,
S.

Dear Gustave,
I’m sorry I’m not enough.
I’m trying.
Please.
S.

 

Dear Gustave,
I know you abhor the concept of teaching art. I am not asking you to teach me, I am asking you  to critique me. Though in a way, I guess you are teaching me. When I copy your paintings, I get a better sense of your technique, I get a better sense to you. When I am up to my elbows in paint is when I am happiest, for that is when I can see so clearly into your soul. It’s like your paintings are made of crystal.

Please, indulge me for a moment. How did you master that scumbling technique? Why are you in love with your color palette? Why are you obsessed with painting yourself?

Also, could you please stop painting so many naked women?

Please respond,
S.

 

Dear Gustave,


Is it because I cut my hair?

Is it because I sweat too much?

All women fart, you know.

S.

Dear Gustave,
Our son grows fat. He eats anything I put in front of him. Practically licks the plate clean when he's done. It's obvious he's trying to fill the void that you've left behind. We both know my cooking isn't *that* good.
Please respond.
S.

Gustave,
How dare you force me to play the role of the crazed, scorned woman! I am not another dazed damsel that will let you mold me to your liking. I can hear you sniggering to your friends, telling them how mad I am, how deeply I've fallen under your spell. You can't do this to me. I am the mother of your child, the queen of my domain! I shall succumb to the whims of no man!
Please respond.
S.

Dear Gustave,
I’m sorry if my last letter frightened you. Allow me to explain the reason for my outburst.
I saw a copy of your recent Origin of the World painting. I heard the woman you used is  Whistler’s whore. Sorry, that’s degrading to her, let me retract. The whore that likes Whistler.
I’m sure both Whistler and I are wondering the same thing: why her? You have such a dedicated model in me already. I would happily have let you parade my sex to the whole of France. You would have even been able to paint my face. I have no shame in showing others how completely I belong to you.
Sorry, that’s degrading again. How completely I give myself to you.
Why is my pussy not good enough for you?
Please respond,
S.


Dear Gustave,
You’re right, I am too emotional. I can’t help it, you draw out these feelings in me. On another note, what did you think of the pictures I sent you in my last letter? I apologize if the quality is poor. I’ve cut back my hours at the plant so that I can focus more on painting. Our money is stretched thin now, and renting a nice camera costs quite a bit, but we are making do for now. Please critique the work as best you can.

On another note, our son seems to be growing tired of our little project. He has less patience and spends longer at school. He tells me he goes to the library after class to catch up on his homework, but his grades don’t reflect that.

He’s avoiding me. Why must all the men in my life abandon me?

Please respond,
S.

Dear Gustave,
Something has turned in the paintings, my tribute to our son. When I began this endeavor to recapture your essence my stroke was clumsy and thick at times but amused in spirit. I was an amateur painter, my skin tones all monochrome, my depiction of our son flat and lifeless. Yet now, as our son grows older and your absence strains on us my paintings become darker. I’m learning more how to handle the paint, how to layer the oils. Perhaps our son’s weariness at posing long hours for me is finally translating into the works. Perhaps I am starting to realize how useless of an endeavor this is. I thought that if I could paint like you, if I could dedicate so much to you, you would finally relinquish your bachelor life and join us. I wanted us to be a family, I wanted our son to have a father. I know now you’ll never return, you’ll never stop being the gutless, misogynistic womanizer you are, but I can’t stop these paintings. I need to complete the work I’ve started. I need to exorcise you fully so I can start being an actual mother to our child. My child.
S.
 

Dear Gustave,

Please Respond.

S.