“About this time everyone suddenly decided I was meant to be an artist and I was given art lessons and a big box of oils and encouragement and everything. I painted and drew every once in a while for about four years with a teacher without admitting to anyone that I didn’t like to paint or draw at all and i didn’t know what I was doing. I used to pray and wish often to be a “great artist” and all the while I hated it and I didn’t realise that I didn’t want to be an artist at all. The horrible thing was that all the encouragement I got made me think that really I wanted to be an artist and made me keep pretending that I liked it and made me like it less and less until I hated it because it wasn’t me that was being an artist; everybody was lifting me high up and crowning me and congratulating me and I was smiling — and really I hated it and I hadn’t done one single good piece of work. It was the craziest pretense in the world but even though i was pretending i believed in it, for about four years I had visions of being a great sad artist and I turned all my energies toward it when I wasn’t an artist at all.”
Diane Arbus, 1940 autobiography, senior class assignment, Fieldston School
Following the screening, novelist and president of PEN American Center, Francine Prose along with Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Hours, Michael Cunningham, and Doon Arbus discuss how the photographer’s “precise use of language” illuminates her pictures. They will also read from the recently released book, Diane Arbus: A Chronology, which was primarily composed of exerpts from her letters, notebooks, writings, and journals. Through her own words, they explore the nature of her observation. 1000 Words recently acquired a copy, and have been drunk on it ever since.