Linden Frederick is the most literary of artists. His paintings tell stories by inviting the viewer into a very focused and specific moment in time, engaging our imaginations. He often paints night scenes: dusk to dawn, changing light . He depicts houses, windows dark except one, making us wonder what is going on inside, drawing us into the family story. Sometimes there will be taillights on a highway, making us want to follow the car, see where it is going. He'll paint ice cream stands or downtown stores or a bridal shop on a small town street after closing, lit by street lamps or neon lights or the last light of day. Although the scenes so often take place at night, I don't think of them as dark. The sky glows at magic hour, or it is indigo midnight with stars overhead, or breaking dawn with a setting moon. The paintings are thrilling.
Right now his brilliant show Night Stories is on exhibit at the Forum Gallery, his longtime artistic home. The paintings are virtuoso, revealing his colossal talent. Complementing his work's storytelling nature, each of the fifteen paintings is accompanied by a short story written by one of fifteen writers. I am lucky enough to be one of them. Some of the writers have long collected Linden's work, others are new fans. Richard Russo, a good friend of Linden's, was instrumental in bringing all of us together for this project.
Opening night was a joy. Although I had seen images, encountering the actual paintings took my breath away. Entering the warmth of the Forum Gallery's beautiful new space at 475 Park Avenue, seeing the works hung on parallel walls, made the outside world stop. You really do leave the regular world behind as you stand before each painting, entering the life within the frame (exquisite dark wood, fabricated by Linden.) The paintings are so varied--evocatively titled by the artist (as all his pictures are,) each title a brushstroke: Rear Window, Offramp, Repair, Save-A-Lot, and nine others.
The paintings are oil on linen, 36 x 36, and as luminous as any I've seen of Linden's--and luminous is the word that so frequently comes to mind when I view his work. I first discovered him in 1989 at the Four Contemporary Realists show at the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme CT, and in 1991 I bought my first painting of his--a 2 x 2" gouache, Nightshade, the miniature perfection of a hazy moon rising over a distant hill. It feels to me the essence of a July night in Maine and sparked the first of my Linden-inspired short stories, "Nature's Child."
The book accompanying the show is NIGHT STORIES: FIFTEEN PAINTINGS AND THE STORIES THEY INSPIRED. It's an incredible collection, and I am so honored to be among such wonderful writers: Anthony Doerr, Andre Dubus III, Louise Erdrich, Joshua Ferris, Tess Gerritsen, Lawrence Kasdan, Lily King, Dennis Lehane, Lois Lowry, Ann Patchett, Richard Russo, Elizabeth Strout, Ted Tally, Daniel Woodrell, and me. Inside the beautiful book (a work of art in itself, designed by Hans Teensma) are Linden's works faced by each of our stories. I chose Night Off, and from it my story "Alley's End" flowed as if the painting had already written it.
As a gift for writing the stories, Linden gave each of us the study of our paintings. Once you've seen the paintings in the main gallery space, you enter a magical corridor lined with the studies. It is fascinating to see the evolution of the work--to see the small oils that captivated each writer, to know that they led not only to Linden's large pictures, but also our fifteen short stories.
Bob and Cheryl Fishko and their genius gallery staff have done a stellar job with this complicated project. (The Fishkos are also incredibly gracious hosts--the party after the opening felt like a literary and artistic salon--New York City transformed into Paris in the '20s. And Bob is an amazing chef.) Linden dedicated the book to his wife Heather, and no wonder--I was so happy to spend time with her and thank her for everything. She is integral to the book, every step along the way. The opening was a joyful and exuberant celebration of Linden and and the collection. I loved seeing several of my fellow authors--Joshua Ferris, Lawrence Kasdan, Lois Lowry, Richard Russo, and Ted Tally, and my glamorous friend and Jane Rotrosen Agency sister Tess Gerritsen. It was especially delightful to be able to share the evening with my forever agent and amitié amoreouse Andrea Cirillo, and my Scholastic editor (and dear friend and greatly admired author) Aimee Friedman.
There are too many great moments from the opening on Thursday night to recount them all here, but I can think of a few highlights. I was thrilled for both Richard Russo and Joshua Ferris--they have brand new short story collections out, and they both received rave New York Times reviews on Thursday, so we were able to toast them at the opening. Ted Tally and I shared a moment about Linden's exhibit at the Michener Museum--Ted is a great champion of Linden's, and his contribution to the collection is a perfect screenplay that could easily be his next Oscar winner, an exquisite short. I loved catching up with Tess, hearing about how she knows Linden--they are both musicians, live near each other in Maine, and play music together. Multi-talented, no surprise.
A really charged moment occurred on Saturday--a good crowd of fans and artists had gathered to hear Linden's artist talk. While Linden spoke about the details of Liquor, the painting that inspired "American Rye Whiskey" by legendary screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Lawrence praised him for being able to capture the light at dusk, so fleeting, beloved by artists and filmmakers (and writers.) They had a really fascinating exchange about light, time, film, and art. The crowd was transfixed.
I hope you can see this extraordinary exhibit (May 11-June 30, 2017) and read the book. I feel so privileged to be part of it and thank Linden for his his work, all of it, incandescent and deeply inspiring.