Sally Mann’s new book, Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington, published by Abrams and Gagosian Gallery, has something for everyone interested in Mann, painter and sculptor Cy Twombly or the creative process. As she recounted in her memoir, Hold Still, Mann enjoyed a warm relationship with Twombly, a fellow native of Lexington, Kentucky. Since the 1960s, Twombly had spent most of each year in Gaeta, Italy (he died in Rome in 2011), but he maintained a home and studio in Lexington, which Mann photographed many times. Her photos show his calligraphic scribbles tacked up on the wall, paint splatters on newspapers spread below one of his gestural paintings, and a drawing hanging above a buffet table set for a party. She captured glancing afternoon light casting shadows on plain white walls. Prints from the series are on view at Gagosian Gallery in New York City until October 22.
In an interview with artist and writer Edmund de Waal, reprinted in the book, Mann says, “One of the things about Cy that always fascinated me, and even made me a bit jealous, was that he seemed to work with such extravagant joy.” By contrast, she says, making a photographic print felt “precise and regimented.” Her images of his studio and home are contemplative and quiet, but there are glimpses of Twombly’s energy and humor. His home looks like a traditional Southern home, with an engraving above the mantel and a small portrait of George Washington next to a small statue of cupids. But we also see a sequined top hat on a stack of books, and a chubby porcelain frog Twombly had bought at a flea market. Mann may be best known for photographing her children, but the images in Remembered Light have more in common with her elegiac work in What Remains, in which she visited Civil War battlefields looking for traces of the people who had passed through the sites. Remembered Light is a portrait of an artist presented through images of the spaces that still bear the imprint of his personality and creative spirit. —Holly Stuart Hughes