In this lively memoir, a former gallerist reflects on a life of adventure and self-discovery.
Durham spent the bulk of her professional career running a reputable art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Founded in 1978, Linda Durham Contemporary Art was a fixture of the Southwest arts scene for decades and “helped launch an innovative contemporary art market in Santa Fe.” But Durham contends the gallery’s impact extended far beyond the local; she writes that the gallery “also opened doors of opportunity and recognition for the vital New Mexico art scene through our participation in top-tier international art fairs.” Due to financial pressures and diminished interest, Durham decided to close the gallery. “I have run out of steam, money, and time,” Durham wrote in a 2011 journal entry. Durham uses the moment as a point of access to trace her journey through life. In short chapters, she looks back on various adventures—the first show she curated, New Mexico in Toronto, which featured work from Georgia O’Keeffe and Ken Price; a romp in Scotland; getting misled by a wealthy investor; a visit to the “tranquility and ornate splendor” of Myanmar; a long-anticipated voyage to Paris; the realization of the dream to travel around the world. Durham’s memoir is also full of childhood memories, such as the vivid scene of her father introducing her to a Mobius strip, a seismic moment for her: “That is where and when it all began, my fascination with connections, with circles and cycles, with beginnings, endings, and more beginnings.” Durham resists the urge to move linearly, and, instead, she organizes the book associatively, discursively. Tales of adventure and intimate reminiscences are punctuated by quotes from artists and writers, and Durham threads in excerpts from journal entries.
Durham’s strong, engaging voice overcomes any organizational qualms; the writing is dexterous enough to zoom in on specific moments and zoom out to consider broad, existential questions. She is careful not to present herself as someone who figured out all the answers; rather, the writer here is still willing and eager to ask the questions. Durham’s writing is often moving and honest. Here, she quotes one of her journal entries from 2012: “In my secret heart, I am beginning to embrace the notion that I am a pilgrim, that I have always been a lonely, dedicated seeker of something unnamed and not quite known.” Durham is an earnest writer, but she is not humorless, and she uses self-deprecating self-awareness to balance any existential heaviness. Despite the vibrant, diverse settings she explores on her international travels, and despite the self-discovery she gleans from these trips, the scenes set closer to home, in her beloved Southwest, are more revealing and more engaging. One of the book’s main achievements is its loving portrayal of Santa Fe, a town inextricably linked to the writer’s identity.
A ranging, rich collage of memory and reflection.
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 252
Publisher: Mobius Pathways Press
Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021