Writing from Art


The image above is a bad photograph (do I take any other kind) I took of a beautiful painting called Proposition Diurne (La femme au miroir) by Paul Delvaux.  When I saw it in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I knew I had to write a story that involved this painting.

At first, I thought of an old man brought into the gallery by his grandchildren.  He’d see the painting, realize the man in the painting was him when he was younger, and find himself remembering that day.  Trouble was I never could figure out who the man was or where the events depicted in the painting happened.

Then I started writing Johnny Talon and the Goddess of Love and War.  Johnny is trying to help a woman who calls herself Eve retrieve objects stolen from her.  I am writing the story automatically, and suddenly she wakes up and there is a bracelet on her wrist.  The bracelet is not only one of the items stolen from her, it is the bracelet from that painting.  The mirror and the necklace will also feature in the novel, including why the mirror shows no face.

Realizing that my subconscious had written this painting into my story, I sought out other paintings by Delvaux and worked them in as well.  The novel has scenes not only from Delvaux’s work, but also Dali and Magritte.  I also worked in scenes based on Max Ernst’s drawings as well as some of Gorey’s work.  My surreal novel became a homage of sorts to surreal art.

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