Living in Your Head
What exactly is the artist’s work?
There’s a great image—silent, part of a montage—in the 1977 movie Julia. Jane Fonda plays the playwright Lillian Hellman. The shot is of Fonda, bundled up against the elements, walking alone along a wind-buffeted beach. The season seems like autumn, the setting is some writerly province like Swampscott or Martha’s Vineyard. Fonda as Lillian Hellman strides, deep in thought. We see her from a bit of a distance, from behind and to the side, so we can’t see her face or hear anything above the sound of the wind and the waves, but we see her hands move, expressively, as if she were in conversation with someone.
She’s talking to her characters. She is her characters.
Fonda/Hellman is not on the beach; she’s in a scene in her play. The dialogue and action are playing—or trying to play—in her head.
This is work.
This is the artist’s work.