Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Umnak Island, 17 September 1944

Allo my adorable artichoke….
[Rosa was working as a news photographer in Seattle during this period. I found a number of her prints from that time after she died, all unlabeled and mysterious to me. This letter explains a few of them.]
Bowling team, 1944, by Rosa Morgan
So much I love you, little one. Somehow I am always most conscious of it when you are being a little unselfconfident, as in today’s letter about the bowling pictures. You seem to expect a perfect shot with each click, my coot, and somehow your disappointment at missing perfection reminds me of how I used to come in the Pete [Antoncich; a reporter at the Grays Harbor Washingtonian] at 10 p.m., moaning low that “this was the worst night ever” for news. Oh my nunny how I wish we could cry on each others’ shoulders, you about film that is only fair and I about a novel that is still up in the air. 
"Negro USO" 1944, by Rosa Morgan
Seattle Union Hall, 1944, by Rosa Morgan
The “Y in Seattle” is not as bad as your description of its going to press made it sound. The make-up is a bit static, but except for that I see nothing particularly wrong with it. To make the best use of the picture possibilities of offset printing, it might be a good idea to reduce the size and weight of the logo, which now stands out more than the portraits, and the possibility of using a really good picture to cover the whole of page one, with the heading routed in, should not be overlooked. One other suggestion is that the heads be kept either all caps or all clcase, preferably the latter as it gives you a better count. I will be interested in seeing the pictures of the Negro U.S.O. Your work seems to get you in the strangest places. I also eagerly anticipate the other two papers, especially the Public Service Journal with the odd fillers about union activities. A suggestion, piltzer my pet, is that you take the World Almanac some day and cull a column or so of statistics about cites for use in such an emergency in the future. Or, I believe, if you asked Miss Macdonald at the county-city building library, she would do a column of short city government items for you which could be used in spots throughout the paper or as a continuous feature. She used to supply me with a lot of stuff like that for the Municipal News.

"The soul is but a small round pebble" by Bill Fett
While I was writing the last paragraph, Jack dripped in for tea and out of a discussion of Bill’s [Fett] visit to Erongaricuaro and Gordon’s [Onslow-Ford] criticisms of his painting (you didn’t say what phrases of Gordon’s echoed in Bill’s letter, but I took it for granted the criticism was that recent Fetts were more representative and objective than the OF school of thought likes) there grew quite an argument. Jack was arguing that the abstractionists purely subjective “world of his own” approach to painting was impossible on two counts, that (1) it was impossible to divorce painting from the artist’s experiences from which it arose, and (2) that to expect any person to find a world of his own in someone else’s painting is impossible. In our discussion we got pretty heated and Jack has just stomped out saying he was going home to read “Fathers and Son.” I am afraid he was offended, although certainly it is nothing that will last more than a couple of hours. I am so used to having you understand what I am trying to say, even when I say it poorly, that having someone I like miss my meaning completely is annoying. We all get jumpy at times up here, and Jack has especially reason to be so now. He is sweating out his last few weeks on the island. He as something like 34 months away from home now and every time in the past that he thought he was due for a furlough he has been fouled up by some new regulation. So now he is really uneasy that something go wrong again.
About my stand: I agreed completely that no artist can divorce himself from his experiences in creating a picture world of his own. But as to the point that it is impossible for someone to enjoy fully a painting created for the subjective satisfaction of the artist, I could not agree. I maintained that understanding of the purpose of the artist was not necessary and that one’s own emotions could be read into the color and balance, as in music. That was the rub, for Jack seemed to think that I was arguing that the approach of all musicians to their work was subjective and surrealist, whereas all I was saying was that the results could be enjoyed without reference to the meaning that the creator of the music had in mind. Jack seemed to feel that the difference was that the surrealist paints purely for himself and that other painters paint for the outside world, whereas it seems to me that the approach of all really creative artists is subjective: they paint the picture the way that pleases them, and the hell with what others say about their approach. Anyway, it was when I said that Beethoven’s approach to music was subjective, that he wrote it for his own satisfaction rather than for his contemporaries or for posterity, that Jack trotted off to his Turgenev. It would have been a more satisfactory discussion if you were there, and Bill and Carmen and a couple bottles of wine. You are much needed, my sympathetic strawberry.
By a coincidence I got your letter about “Double Indemnity” on the same afternoon that I saw the show. In fact, I picked it up before going back to the hut from the movie. It seemed to me the best movie of its kinds since Maltese Falcon. The repartee was just a little too rapid to be convincing, but, for once, it seemed to me that Barbara Stanwick did more than walk through a part. Perhaps it was because I had read the book and knew that she was a psychopath and a potential mass murderess, but it seemed to me that she did a fine job with her loves scenes with our hero, projecting purposeful passion and cunning. And the music and photography were superb. I wish there were no Hays office and that they could take a whirl at “Serenade.” Did you notice that Raymond Chandler, who wrote “Farewell My Lovely,” did the job of adapting Cain to the screen?
You are adored, my little one, and tomorrow I’ll tell you about it all over again.

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