Art history in particular is often cast as an almost biblical lineage, a long line of begats in which painters descend purely from painters. Just as purely patrilineal Old Testament genealogies leave out mothers and even fathers of the mothers, so these tidy stories leave out all the sources of inspirations that come from other media and other encounters, from poems, dreams, politics, doubts, a childhood experience, a sense of place, leave out the fact that history is made more of crossroads, branchings, and tangles than straight lines. These other sources I called the grandmothers (59).
I think sometimes that I became a historian because I didn’t have a history, but also because I was interested in telling the truth in a family in which truth was an elusive entity. It could best be served not by claiming an authoritative and disinterested relationship to the facts, but by disclosing your own desires and agendas, for truth lies not only in incidents but in hopes and needs. The histories I’ve written have often been hidden, lost, neglected, too broad, or too amorphous to show up in other’s radar screens, histories that are not neat fields that belong to someone but the paths and waterways that meander through many fields and belong to no one (58-59).
I thought: ‘You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.’ (95)
Sometimes gaining and losing are more intimately related than we like to think. And some things cannot be moved or owned. Some light does not make it all the way through the atmosphere, but scatters (38).