The painter shares the challenging, hopeful books that helped her through personal crisis.
Winding, veering off, looping back around, and accelerating forward: such is the pattern of life. Our plans and ambitions morph, often leaving us utterly uprooted and—with time—redirected towards another path. Artist Shannon Cartier Lucy knows this full well. Upon the burgeoning of her career in the early aughts, personal crises compelled her to leave New York City and the art world behind, moving home to Nashville to become a licensed psychotherapist. Her return has coincided with a shift to realism, and her latest exhibit—Home is a Crossword Puzzle I Can’t Solve—embraces figuration. On view now at Lubov in New York through March 8th, the exhibit encapsulates the absurdity and frailty of everyday domestic life.
Given her exploration of the quietly chaotic, it is fitting that Lucy is fascinated by literature that deep dives into human movement through suffering and hope. Here, the artist provides Document with a spiritually-inclined booklist that questions what exactly it means to be lost and found.
“There’s no narrowness, no specific condition for feeling lost—whether it be heartbreak, a violent storm, addiction, or near-death experience,” she comments. “Beyond culture or religious belief, one thing all human beings share is pain. This collection of books touches on the deeply and widely felt imaginative yearning that heralds change—a crisis, a breakdown, a leaning toward something bigger, a desire for relief, for joy, and for our life to have true meaning.”
A Confession by Leo Tolstoy
“Well-known author of Anna Karenina shares a heart-felt account of his midlife crisis and subsequent spiritual awakening. Plagued by meaninglessness during a period of his life marked by great notoriety, wealth, and success, the writer claimed: ‘Life felt like a stupid joke being played on me.’ Yet, through meticulous self-examination, he finds a way to come out the other side.”
Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil
“This is a truly inspiring book of aphorisms by the French philosopher and mystic that was compiled posthumously. Weil speaks to fellow tragic figures stripped bare by the absurdity of life.”
Essays and Fictions by Brad Phillips
“An author in perpetual state of what Simone Weil called ‘decreation,’ Phillips offers a painfully sincere and disarming collection of autobiographical fiction.
‘I had experienced the psychiatrically rare psychogenic fugue state. [From Wikipedia] Dissociative fugue: a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by amnesia for personal identity and other qualifying characteristics of individuality’…Check, and check!”
A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor
“O’Connor, a southern gothic novelist known for her grotesque short stories, compiled notebooks of short prayers during the time of writing her famed novel Wiseblood.
‘My mind is in a little box, dear god, down inside other boxes and on and on. There is little air in my box. Dear God, please give me as much air as it is not presumptuous to ask for. Please let some light shine out of all things around me so that I can. Oh dear god, I want to write a novel, a good novel.’ ”
Diary of a Country Priest by George Bernanos
“Shame, self-hate, feelings of inferiority, and suicide are frequent motifs in Bernanos’ fiction. Diary is a compelling yet heartbreaking portrayal of an innocent and extremely vulnerable man who always thinks he’s failing. But in spite of his torturous self-condemnation, the priest surrenders to good and evil and finds his hard-won enlightenment. We’re left with three words: ‘all is grace.’ ”
Book of Hours by Rainer Rilke
“Rilke’s collection of poems were written spontaneously as ‘prayers to the divine for a secular world.’ The writing is more relevant than ever considering the current state of human affairs.
‘The poor, the outcasts, the homeless ones each one profound in his humbleness and without fear of humiliating himself and because of that truly pious.’ ”
Going Sane: Maps of happiness by Adam Phillips
“Sanity becomes part of an extensive vocabulary of reassurance for the danger of our vulnerability and the ever-elusive yet default position we aspire to. In a world of dysfunction and chaos, sanity has been the pose of those who want to keep things the same. Sanity, therefore, is not something we were born with but something we painfully acquire.”