The Writing of Noyes Capehart
For over sixty years, I have been making pictures and exhibiting professionally. For nearly fifty of those years, I have been writing fiction, but well below the radar. My first literary efforts in the early 1960’s took the form of short stories – initially influenced by the stories of Franz Kafka – and by 1971 the written word began appearing in the compositional fabric of my pictures. I painted the first of my Private Diary pictures that year and, with few exceptions, have continued with that theme to the present. This attraction to writing has come naturally and may be best understood by looking at many of my pictures from the past forty years; my works have almost always dealt with narrative content. I have always wanted to tell a story of some kind through my pictures.
The following stories are scheduled for release in the near future. Please check this website from time to time for details.
Potato Eaters (A novel)
My first venture into serious fiction came in 1990 with Potato Eaters, a full length novel based on the three years he spent following college as a guard and night watchman at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Potato Eaters (the title coming from Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 oil painting of The Potato Eaters) is essentially a coming of age story about a young man from Tennessee (Harden Troy) who travels to New York City with a former college art teacher (Paul Lancer) for what is supposed to be a brief visit of four or five days. Lancer is going to New York to try to salvage a deteriorating relationship with a girlfriend in Brooklyn. Knowing that Harden has never seen a major museum, Lancer suggests that he stay at the YMCA, with the understanding that he will call Harden in a day or so regarding the return trip to the South. Lancer never calls. Harden’s meager financial resources began to disappear and he faces two options: return by bus to his home near Nashville or find a job in the city. He opts for the latter. Nearly two months pass before Harden learns that his teacher drowned inadvertently while making the ferry crossing to Staten Island.
During Harden’s time as a guard, he meets an attractive young woman on Christmas Day in 1959. As they talk in one of the quiet galleries, she introduces herself as Norma Jean Baker. Harden has no inkling he is talking with Marilyn Monroe. The following excerpt comes from Potato Eaters:.
“Every time I look at this picture I wonder who she is looking for down on the street. She looks so despondent, so alone. My heart just breaks for her.”
Harden hardly heard a word she said, partly because of the gentleness of her words but also because of his total fixation on her sensuous mouth. She pursed her lips as she formed each word like a potter might shape soft clay into an object of perfection.
“Yes, it is a very doleful moment,” he replied, pleased that he had snared a word other than sad. He struggled to appear relaxed and calm. “Vermeer was quite gifted at capturing such moods.”
“You sound like you might be an artist.” Her voice was soft, even breathless. “Do you paint?” A radiant smile bathed her face.
“I try to, but painters like Vermeer make it difficult sometimes.”
“How do you mean?” She studied his boyish face as he groped for an answer, recalling a time in her life when her world, like his, seemed so full of hope and promise.
“I mean it’s very hard for me not to be influenced by artists like Vermeer, hard to know what I’m supposed to paint when I see stuff like this. It’s a little difficult to explain, I suppose.”
“Oh, I think I understand. I know that feeling.”
“You do? Are you an artist too?”
“I’m not a painter like you and Vermeer but, yes, I think of myself as an artist.” She paused for a moment. “My name is Norma,” she said, extending a milk-white hand to him. “Norma Jean Baker.”
“Pleased to meet you Norma,” he said, feeling his face begin to redden. “I’m Harden Troy.”
Ghenna’s Child (a novella)
(2000 – 2002)
Ghenna’s Child is a story about a thirteen-year old mentally disturbed boy (Lucien Vicas) who struggles to overcome years of abuse by his father, bullies at school and Roark, his inner demon.
God’s Acolyte (A novel)
(2006 – 2009)
T. Francis Vorce, a charismatic young Episcopal priest comes to Edenton, North Carolina, to fill the position of rector at (fictitious) Grace Episcopal Church. Vorce’s arrival coincides with the return of released convict Sonny Maybank and the murder of a young girl from nearby Elizabeth City. As Vorce tries to calm the distressed community, Lucas Curran (Vorce’s former college roommate and celebrated Beaufort writer) becomes interested in and ultimately involved with the murder investigation. Curran and Elizabeth City detective Erica James make a startling discovery.
(2010 – 2012)
Capehart’s latest novel combines three different time lines; Hitler’s Germany in 1938 – 1942, Florence, Italy during Renaissance (1400-1500) and contemporary (2006) times.
Porter Blue, an art history professor at (fictitious) Balfour College in Nashville, Tennessee, takes a six-month sabbatical and goes to Florence to write his first novel, a story about the youthful Michelangelo and Contessina de’ Medici, the youngest daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the titular leader of Renaissance Florence.
One strong stimulus for Blue’s book is the recent discovery in Florence of four diaries from the hand of Contessina de’ Medici. Museum scholars quickly agree that a fifth diary is missing.
The pace of the story quickens when Blue and his fiancée (Largo Kopacz) discover a stolen painting in the home of Theo Volmer, the imposing director of the Uffizi Gallery. The painting was stolen by the Nazis from the home of Largo’s great-grandparents in Krakow, Poland in 1938.
An isolated art forgery in London brings Scotland Yard investigator Mason Creed to Florence. He and Blue quickly realize that the London forgery is just the tip of an iceberg. They discover a forgery ring that goes straight to the heart of the Uffizi Museum.
As Blue’s novel becomes part of the fabric of Devil’s Mark, we learn that Michelangelo and Contessina conceived a child on the eve of her marriage to Piero Ridolfi, son of a prominent Florentine family. Near the end of the story when Michelangelo is frantically trying to finish the dome of St. Peters Bascilica he meets his son Micha, by then a prominent cardinal.