Anna Sokolow: You Love Talent

Excerpt from Anna Sokolow: We Must Be Ready, Right Now, To Do What We Must 
by James Grissom

Available on Amazon

[Carlos] Merida told Sokolow about his friend and arts partner Carlos Valenti, a Parisian-born artist who was close friends with Jaime Sabartes, the secretary to Pablo Picasso. Described as a flickering Roman candle of talent and inspiration, Valenti touched deeply everyone with whom he worked or socialized, and he lived furiously through the arts. “When I heard Merida talk about Valenti,” Sokolow told me, “I realized that there were other people like me in the world: People who felt and feared that time was limited; talent was limited. You love talent, wherever it may find a home, and you foster it. If you take on the responsibility of helping people, educating people, leading them away from danger and destruction, the hours of each day become terribly precious. You become very impatient to keep moving and working and seeing.” Diagnosed with diabetes at a young age, Valenti soon developed problems with his vision, and a specialist in Paris advised him to completely rest his eyes, to avoid color and light and contrasts. “This, of course, was a death sentence,” Sokolow explained, “and he fell into a deep depression. To be cut off from visual stimulation was more damaging than to be deprived of food.” Merida  traveled with Valenti to Paris, for “one last look” at the art he could no longer remove from his line of vision. A note he wrote around this time reads “There are some among us that have the real faith – Art – for which you have to sacrifice yourself, stepping over everything, to whom you have to render homage as a deity, give everything up for it; live only for your work… there, in the canvas, deposit an entire life, all our love; transmit to the painting everything that cannot be explained; live in it, deposit all our being, all the most saintly emotions that the artists’ heart experiences.” Not long after penning this note, Valenti fired two shots into his chest, in the presence of Carlos Merida, who watched in shock as his friend died before his eyes. “I work for him now,” Merida explained to Sokolow. “In his memory.”  Sokolow took notes on the life of Carlos Valenti and she shared them with Tenn at a meeting in 1951, after she had seen a performance of The Rose Tattoo, a play she loved and which she felt was terribly Mexican in its language and attitude. “That play,” she said, “so much more than any other that Tennessee wrote, has a feel of Mexico, and of these artists who came to mean so much to me.” Sokolow explained that in Mexico she met people who were close to the earth, rustic and simple. The people she met were not distracted by noise or entertainments or excess; they relied on each other and on ancient myths that helped them to understand their world and their lives.

The notes on Valenti, which were given to Tenn by Sokolow, led to the creation of Camino Real.

© 2014 James Grissom


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