Maglaras states directly that Hartley’s work is about death and transcendence, and the whole of the film is organized around his arguments for this reading. It’s not inaccurate, but it seems limiting. Certainly Hartley had grievous losses in his life, including his German officer and the young men of the Mason fishing family in Canada. He also stuck to his identity as an artist in the face of daunting difficulties, never making much money until the last few years of his life.
But Maglaras’s Hartley is not the same as mine. There’s a sense of portentous doom it the movie, the arc of a life lived as epic tragedy transcended by the sublime nature of the work. It seems to me that Maglaras asks too much from Hartley, more than he needs to.
There’s a Hartley painting I go to see whenever I have the time and am in the neighborhood of the Colby museum. It’s a painting of a church that still exists in Head Tide, Maine, just as he painted it. It reminds me that Harley lived his life for the simple joy of art done really well, one day to the next. Wherever you can find a Hartley that same feeling is there, and it is more than enough.
Ken Greenleaf can be reached at email@example.com.
: Museum And Gallery
, Painting, Visual Arts, Gertrude Stein, More