Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 02 June, 1997

JOHN SLOAN: ARTIST AND REBEL

By John Loughery

Book Review by Jack Nichols


 

JOHN SLOAN: Artist and Rebel by John Loughery, published by Henry Holt, A John MacraE Book, 438 pages, $37.50, to be available in paperback in December, USA: $15.95 /CANADA: $22.95

This book, soon to be published in paperback, was a finalist for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. If ever there was an artful biography that perfectly captures the poignancy, power and inevitable growth of a truly creative life, this amazing book is it. But the author, John Loughery, accomplishes even more than this. In clear, seductive prose Loughery leads his lucky reader by the hand, and suddenly he is on the streets of great Manhattan early in the century, hobnobbing with the city's avant garde, keeping a sympathetic eye on prostitutes--female and male; standing with the homeless in winter's cold and waiting for a free cup of coffee. Here in Carnegie Hall the great anarchist crusader, Emma Goldman, is speaking. Here we see the unforgettable radical dancer, Isadora Duncan posing. Here are the foremost issues of art itself, bared in the individual's need to bypass standard conventions, reassessing the status quo, and inaugurating with only a few friends, a great revolution in artistic thought and practice.

Manhattan's allure is, in this book, made palatable. To know the sophistication, the opportunities and, even in poverty, the joys that our Empire City celebrates is a gift this book easily delivers. But further, John Sloan: Artist and Rebel, is a passionate journey into the very heart of art and creativity itself: the challenges, heartaches, courage, and earnestness; the yearning for truth, contentment, and freedom. This is not the tale of an embroiderer, no, but of a man who carries only a paintbrush and a pen, boldly fashioning a whole new world, one to replace the stagnant past. He is a man who loves with much commitment. For forty years he gave triumphant love to Dolly, a prostitute when they met, an incorrigible alcoholic, and who--long into their relationship---was a person who slept with strangers met on the streets as she stumbled through her alcoholic haze. In their Chelsea apartment Sloan helps Dolly abort her unwanted baby, conceived in drunkenness, a child that was not his own. The author's uncanny insights into this loving relationship soar in the range of true genius. The voice of John Sloan himself is unforgettable: "Though a living cannot be made at art, art makes life worth living. It makes living, living. It makes starving, living. It makes worry, it makes trouble, it makes a life that would be barren of everything---living. It brings life to life."

Author John Loughery's long-awaited cultural history of same-sex love in America will be published in mid-1998.

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