Writing on the Bleeding Edge

Home Page Amy Beach and Me

Home Page Amy Beach and Me

As a digital painter (since 1988!), I am not new to creative controversy. For years no gallery or juried show would accept a work of art from me when they learned it was “made in a computer.” That is changing, certainly, but there are still vestiges of prejudice, fear, controversy surrounding digital art. (btw, while it is indeed made in a computer, I am doing the making, and it is my skill as an artist that creates, not the computer). Digital Art/Painting acceptance is a subject I discuss in various places on my personal web site, mediabench.com, so I won’t go into great detail about it here. But the impetus behind a blog to coincide with my new media bio and memoir, Amy Beach and Me, which I have just launched online is that same controversy: the pushback to “new” in the world of the arts.The positive reception from close literary friends and those at Antioch University, where this book began as my MFA thesis, has been passionate; the pushback has also been passionate!

What about the future of “real” books???? The soft leather bound form I can cuddle up with in front of a fire? “Call me old-fashioned” – they often preface their remarks with.

I’m okay with all this. It is exciting. Hey! I am standing on some remarkable bleeding edge shoulders here. When Beethoven changed the form of music, created a new form, someone remarked that his 7th Symphony could be his passport to an insane asylum. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, now thought to be the greatest ballet ever written, was considered undanceable throughout his lifetime.

Added to the fact that I am creating a new literary genre,  this Amy Beach book is also filled with my discoveries about the history of women, and the scant opportunities afforded them in the arts throughout history . . . well, we are talking further controversy fodder here.

At a writing workshop toward the end of my MFA program, a professor questioned a passage in the book in which I state that Amy Beach needs me and I need Amy Beach. He did not think that Amy Beach could need me as she is dead. In the workshop form, as the author, I am not allowed to speak. But one of my writing peers stood and passionately explained that, of course, Amy Beach needs Terry, she needs Terry to set the record straight about her life and her music. “Don’t you get it?”

Later another student questioned the lavendar interface and cursive typeface I employed for the book – something to the effect that if I was trying to show how bold and powerful Amy Beach and I, her mentee, are, shouldn’t I use harder edge, less feminine graphics? My spokesperson peer was out of her seat again. “Have you heard nothing Terry has said? Have you understood nothing? The entire point of the Power and Ephiphanies chapter is about the masculine valuing of power. Why must art be powerful to be valuable?

And I would add: who decided that lavendar is not powerful or bold?

And I would add: it takes a great deal of boldness to speak up about the prejudices and discrimination that still keep women out of the powerful posts in music, and still dictate that she must follow a male defined construct of creative power theory in order to even compete in the fields of literature, art, or music.

So, yes, I am facing controversy on multiple fronts here and am looking forward to it. You bet Amy Beach needs me. She needs me to carry the torch she carried for women and the arts beginning at her birth in 1867. I hope to keep that torch lit and to share the flame with as many women and men as possible. And you bet I need Amy Beach. We all do. A woman who succeeded as a composer in the 19th century, against all odds, and a woman who illustrates the wide range of limitations placed on a woman’s ability to live up to her potential, based on her gender – in the 19th century and continuing to this 21st century. Let’s open the dialogue!