You know that if two artists are married, only one is going to be successful. And in your family, it’s going to be [your husband]. So why don’t you just understand that and look after the house and the kids?*
If these words were directed at you, would you give up? What if they came from someone you trusted, someone who knew your capabilities versus your spouse’s because he was your collective teacher and faculty adviser? What if you were a budding visual artist and he a world-renowned painter?
How would you react?
I’m certain I would go through periods of rage, helplessness, and despair before slogging my way back to the work. (At least I’d like to think I’d persist, and that my solution wouldn’t mean I’d be wearing an orange jumpsuit to all future writing sessions. Because seriously, that level of outright favoritism and sexism? Grrrrrrr!)
As I learned in her wide-ranging interview with Michael Enright, the artist in question — Canadian painter Mary Pratt — did just that. She went on to have a fifty-year career that would be a considered a success by all objective standards. Internationally, Ms. Pratt is known for her study of light on everyday objects in the style of still life photo-realism. Canada granted her the highest award it provides to its citizens, making her a Companion of the Order of Canada. Two of her paintings have been featured on Canadian stamps.
What’s more, this was hardly the last time she’d surmount the forces of anti-career antagonism. Because her remarkable life and career hold a number of powerful lessons that apply to fiction, I thought to share them here today.