My husband and I were invited to some friends’ house on Sunday to view paintings by the prominent Texas artist, Dorothy Hood. My husband has long been an admirer of her work and informed his art collector friends when he learned a significant number of important large paintings were coming up for sale.
Along with the gallery owner, there was a woman present, Susie Kalil, who has made it her mission to “give Dorothy her due” as an important American artist. Susie knew Dorothy and now has access to all of her personal affects which she is using to research a book not only on Dorothy’s art but also her colorful life in preparation for a major exhibition at the South Texas Institute for the Arts. And this is the part that struck me—those personal effects include journals chronicling her entire adult life in detail, letters to and from some of the most prominent artists and writers of the 20th century (she kept carbon copies of the letters she wrote), poems, photographs and sketches that tell the story of the woman behind the art.
As Susie talked about Dorothy’s time in Mexico City in the 1940s which was an intellectual and cultural center not unlike Paris in 1920, I wanted to read the journals and letters for myself to see through Dorothy’s eyes her circle of friends which included Spanish novelist Luis Buñuel, Mexican painters Miguel Covarrubias and Rufino Tamayo, American playwright Sophie Tredwell, German-born artist Mathias Goeritz, Spanish surrealist Remedios Varo and English-born surrealist Leonora Carrington a good friend. On occasion, she stayed at the house of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and painter Frida Kahlo—who wouldn’t read her accounts of those flamboyant figures?
Later she married to Bolivian composer, Velasco Maidana, and together they moved to Houston where she became a prominent figure in the art scene with work in museum collections all over the world. And through it all she recorded her travels and the people she met and maintained her friendships through long, personal letters.
I have to feel a little sad that journals, hand written letters, printed photos and other tangible items are being replaced these days with blog posts, email, telephone calls and digital photos that may be lost as software changes and technology advances. We’re told nothing is ever lost on the internet, but can it be found, examined, assembled to recreate a picture of a vibrant, creative life? Are we losing personal connections now that email and texts have replaced phone calls? Has television replaced conversation and interactive activities?
Don’t get me wrong—I love technology as a convenience in my business and personal life but I also mourn the fast pace that allows us to shortcut the thoughtful communication and introspection for personal journals and handwritten correspondence. I wonder what record will be left behind of our lives in fifty or a hundred years. Maybe this is the question every generation asks.
Do you still write letters or keep a journal? To you call or email?