Go Big or Go Bust: Day 127 (on Nell Zink, my new hero)

In spite of reams of examples to the contrary, I can't seem to shake the thought that everyone worth their salt is successfully breaking out and going viral.

But then I recently read a jaw-droppingly bizarre and wonderful article, Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker profile of the writer Nell Zink. For an under-the-radar artist of-a-certain-age like me, Zink's story is ... uhh ... 'the breath of life' wouldn't be too strong a term. 

To give you an idea why I'm so bowled over, Ms. Zink (age 50) an American living outside of Berlin, has spent her life (until very recently) writing for an audience of one or zero. And apparently, she may be one of the great living writers. Only by a crazy twist of fate, Jonathan Franzen came to discover and champion her work.

Laura Zink                                                                                       photograph by Gareth McConnell

Laura Zink                                                                                       photograph by Gareth McConnell

In the New Yorker article, Franzen essentially admits that the New York world of publishing is a closed circle of people who know the right people. Or maybe Zink says that and Franzen agrees.  Whatever. The point is that Nell Zink has spent decades shying away from/thumbing her nose at gatekeepers everywhere while continuing to do her work. A reaffirming secondary point is the insider acknowledgment (by Franzen) that closed circles of gatekeepers are a fact of life. The corollary to that is obviously that being an outsider is no judgement whatsoever of the value of one's work. During one of their meetings, New Yorker writer Schulz notices a single futon mattress on the floor in the room and suddenly grasps the reality of Zink's outsider-artist situation. I wanted to leap through the pages of the magazine shouting "MY HERO!"

Now we can add Zink's name to a growing list with the author Edith Pearlman who, at 79, is

finally getting widely recognized and a whole roster of women artists in their 70's, 80's and 90's recently featured in The TImes strictly because they're not as well known as they should be.

TOP ROW: Carmen Herrera  |  Agnes Denes  |  Dorothea Rockburne  |  Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian  |  Lorraine O'Grady  BOTTOM ROW: Etel Adnan  | Joan Semmel |  Faith Ringold  |  Judith Bernstein |  Michelle Stuart  |  Rosalyn Drexler      

TOP ROW: Carmen Herrera  |  Agnes Denes  |  Dorothea Rockburne  |  Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian  |  Lorraine O'Grady  BOTTOM ROW: Etel Adnan  | Joan Semmel |  Faith Ringold  |  Judith Bernstein |  Michelle Stuart  |  Rosalyn Drexler      

I'm not going to use any of this as an excuse to throw in the towel with my 'go big' campaign, but I am going to feel a lot more relaxed doing it.  And as we know from the example of our Kiwi friends, relaxed = sexy.