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Night Studio: A memoir of Philip Guston by Musa Mayer

This was one of the most interesting ways of telling a memoir that I may have ever read. Musa Mayer is Guston’s daughter and she tells his story through her own story. It’s a portrait of Guston that is unique to Mayer’s experiences of her father as a father and as an important member of Art(big-A)’s History.

The end result is a fun read. We are introduced to the relationship of father to daughter of someone who was married to Art and nothing else. Ridiculously stereotypical, Guston was an important figure in American Art History, a primary constituent of the Abstract Expressionism movement, only slightly lesser known than his contemporary, Jackson Pollock.

Mayer does a nice job of balancing her emotional response to her father with Philip Guston, the artist, since the two were somewhat cold and selfish identities. Often she referenced her father simply as “Philip.”

The Gustons were part of an era that is clearly gone. Rough-bellied, cigar-smoking drinkers littered Musa’s experience. An only child, she suffered her parents as an adult almost immediately; under the looming shadow of her father she let herself fail in painting and turned to Art History as her medium. She claimed feeling inadequate around both her parents, despite her hyper-articulated manner of expression.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good memoir – art knowledge not required.