Introduction to Exchanging Hats [New York: Farrar,
Straus & Giroux, 1996]
Benton, in his introduction to Exchanging Hats,
a collection of Bishops paintings, describes Bishops
denial that her paintings are art and his
own refutation of this statement.
1971 she said, From time to time I paint a small
gouache or watercolor and give them to friends . . .
They are Not ArtNOT AT ALL. They are, though.
They are just not to be confused with a process whose
order and intensity penetrates the matrix of a life.
Her paintings were done differently; her life entered
them. They were the product and occupation of leisure,
of fiddling around when more important work was out
of the way or out of the question. She used poor materials,
paper that traveled light and then disintegrated. Her
method for the most part consisted of making a simple
drawing and, unceremoniously, coloring it in. And yet
if she was, as she called herself, a genuine primitive,
she also understood from the beginning that intrinsic
value inheres in the grace of enactment, and not in
the obligation to approximate. She was, as David Kalstone
said, aware of the smallness and dignity of human
Contributing author: Michelle Ephraim,
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
to William Benton, Introduction to Exchanging
Hats Answer the following question in your notebookthis
will be collated so that you can print or e-mail
your work when you are finished.
2). Why does Benton disagree with Bishop regarding the
status of her work as art? What does he
mean when he argues that her life entered
3). Benton notes that Bishop created her art when important
work was out of the way or out of the question;
her work is the product of leisure and consisted
of making a simple drawing and, unceremoniously, coloring
it in. Why do you think that he admires her process
4). How would you describe the difference between the
grace of enactment and the obligation to