The American Painter Emma Dial: A Novelby Samantha Peale
Emma Dial is a virtuoso painter who executes the works of Michael Freiburg, a preeminent figure in the New York art world. She has a sensuous and exacting hand, hips like a matador, and long neglected ambitions of her own. She spends her days completing a series of pictures
“Wicked, subversive, satirical, sophisticated, and deep.”Kate Christensen
Emma Dial is a virtuoso painter who executes the works of Michael Freiburg, a preeminent figure in the New York art world. She has a sensuous and exacting hand, hips like a matador, and long neglected ambitions of her own. She spends her days completing a series of pictures for Freiburg's spring exhibition and her nights drinking and dining with friends and luminaries. Into this landscape walks Philip Cleary, Emma's longtime painting hero and a colleague and rival of her boss. Philip Cleary represents the ideal artistic existence, a respected painter, fearless and undeterred by fashion. He is unmatched by anyone from Emma's generation. Except, just possibly, Emma herself. Emma Dial must choose between the security of being a studio assistant to a renowned painter and the unknown future as an artist in her own right.
Samantha Peale writes with astonishing insight about a young woman who risks everything to fulfill her ambitions as an artist.
The New York Times
From former Jeff Koons studio assistant Peale, an introspective examination of art, talent and motivation in the contemporary New York art scene. Emma Dial is 32 and the right hand to prominent New York artist Michael Freiburg: Michael dreams up the ideas and Emma-armed with her skill and his trust-does the painting. Through their stormy six-year relationship, Emma has reached a certain level of comfort, painting five or six major works a year at $20,000 apiece. Yet as art becomes work and her talent is appropriated to someone else's vision, Emma finds it increasingly difficult to visit her own studio, much less come up with ideas of her own. Michael and Emma, of course, also sleep together. When Michael's friend and rival Philip Cleary enters the picture, choices become increasingly confusing for Emma as Philip pushes her to break free of Michael and focus on her own work. There's a controlled neatness to the novel that feels at odds with the fury and passions of its artist characters, and the quiet late-book revelations aren't exactly inspired. All in all, it's fine, if a bit light. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The title character in Peale's debut is a gifted artist who paints for someone else. Famous artist Michael Freiburg develops ideas and directs Emma's work, who applies paint to canvas. Through their relationship, working and physical, Emma survives as an artist in New York, but Michael's ego and appetites keep her from her own art. While she has her own appetites-including cigarettes, coffee, wine, chocolate, music, and friends-Emma feels guilt over her empty studio and the old life she abandoned. There is no more swimming, no walks to her Brooklyn studio, no biking, no drawing, and no painting for herself. Already discontented and unsure of Michael, she encounters another successful, magnetic artist named Philip Cleary. Through a powerful connection with Philip, Emma painfully detaches herself from Michael to begin her own career. The reader is drawn deeply into Emma's world as well as the art world of New York, and feels all of the protagonist's highs and lows. Peale's unapologetic style feels bold and genuine.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Meet the Author
Samantha Peale lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons.
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Even though I am much older than Emma Dial, her character rang very true for me as a young woman, and the young women I know today. Peale captures the ambivalence, determination and sometimes confusion of talented women finding their own voice in relationship to powerful and compelling men.
I put Emma Dial, American Painter down more than once, not planning to finish it, but I found myself drawn back just to see if Emma would stand up and walk away from the egomaniacal painter she works for. Toward the end of the novel--spoiler here--as Emma's need to paint overcomes her self pity, I was touched by Peale's portrait of an artist as a young woman whose talent is finally liberating. Unusual for a first novel, the writing is better--more convincing, more show than tell--at the end of the book than the beginning.
This is a wonderfully written book. The details of NYC life in the art world during the 90s is rich, authentic, sad and exciting. Emma's journey through art to her adult self is exhilarating. The voice of the author is wry, vulnerable and very funny. I loved it and look forward to Samantha Peale's next book!