When I got an assignment from a newspaper to interview Lee Krasner, the single thought in my head was that I was about to meet the widow of the great Jackson Pollock. Then I was warned that she would be “difficult,” which I took to mean “nasty”. But when I showed up at her house in East Hampton — the same small house she and Pollock had moved to in the 1940s — the woman I encountered there was anything but mean and hard. I had an overwhelming sense of a fiercely strong human being who had suffered a lot and come through: someone whose integrity, raw hunger for life, and blunt honesty were undimmed at age 72. I walked out of that first meeting on a high, thinking how fortunate Pollock was to have had her for his partner.
The last time I saw her, she invited me to look her up when I was in Manhattan, where she lived for much of the year. I never did that, out of a certain diffidence, a feeling that she must have more important people to see. So when I read, four years later, that she had died, I had a great sense of regret and loss. It was probably that which made me write Modern Art, a novel in which the character based on her, rather than the one based on Pollock, is very much the central figure.
Just as some people found Krasner too much of a tough broad to be likable, some readers didn’t care for Belle Prokoff in my book. But others saw her the way I had experienced Krasner: as a woman who had gained a certain hard-won wisdom, even a spiritual dimension, through the things she had suffered. That is exactly how I tried to present her.
Read more about the book – Modern Art (click here).