An excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to Walter J. Miller, 1951:
“Thought, rather fuzzily, about something I want to add to my recent letter to you. It’s this business about the school: school of painting, school of poetry, school of music, school of writing…
What Slotkin said was this: no man who achieved greatness in the arts operated by himself; he was top man in a group of like-minded individuals. This works out fine for the cubists, and Slotkin had plenty of good evidence for its applying to Goethe, Thoreau, Hemingway, and just about anybody you care to name. If this isn’t 100% true, it’s true enough to be interesting – and maybe helpful.
The school gives a man, Slotkin said, the fantastic amount of guts it takes to add to culture. It gives him morale, esprit de corps, the resources of many brains, and – maybe most important – one-sidedness with assurance. About this one-sidedness: I’m convinced that no one can amount to a damn in the arts if he becomes sweetly reasonable, seeing all sides of a picture, forgiving all sins.
Slotkin also said a person in the arts can’t help but belong to some school – good or bad. I don’t know what school you belong to. My school is presently comprised of Littauer & Wilkenson (my agents), and Burger, and nobody else…
So having said that much, where am I? In Alplaus, New York, I guess, wishing I could pick up some fire and confidence and originality and fresh prejudices from somewhere. As Slotkin said, these things are group products. It isn’t a question of finding a Messiah, but of a group’s creating one – and it’s hard work, and takes a while.
If this sort of thing is going on somewhere, I’d love to get in on it. I’d give my right arm to be enthusiastic. God knows there’s plenty to write about – more now than ever before, certainly. You’re defaulting, I’m defaulting, everyone’s defualting, seems to me. If Slotkin’s right, maybe the death of the institution of friendship is the death of innovation in the arts.”
If I were on the brink of forming a ‘school’ of artists here in Italy, Paolo Antonio Toci would be one of the first picks, not merely for his friendship but the way in which our minds seem to find some creative agreement. I’m not sure in 2014 we can still create ‘schools’ around ideas as the cubists did, but we can certainly freely associate and find the bonds which push us to create more and more art. Here, some photos of a man whose art, life and brain I greatly admire: Paolo Antonio Toci.