HILTON ALS ON ALICE NEEL

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Hilton Als (born 1960) is an American writer and theater critic who writes for The New Yorkermagazine. Als is a former staff writer for The Village Voice and former editor-at-large at Vibemagazine.

Als was born in New York City, with roots in Barbados. His 1996 book The Women focuses on his mother (who raised him in Brooklyn), Dorothy Dean, and Owen Dodson, who was a mentor and lover of Als. In the book, Als explores his identification of the confluence of his ethnicity, gender and sexuality, moving from identifying as a “Negress” and then an “Auntie Man”, a Barbadian term for homosexuals. His 2013 book White Girls continued to explore race, gender, identity in a series of essays about everything from the AIDS epidemic to Richard Pryor‘s life and work.

Als received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2000 for creative writing and the 2002–03 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. In 2004 he won the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, which provided him half a year of free working and studying in Berlin. He has taught at Smith College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University, and his work has also appeared in The Nation, The Believer, and theNew York Review of Books.

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Alice Hartley Neel was born on January 28, 1900 in Merion Square, Pennsylvania, to Alice Concross Hartley, a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington Neel, an accountant in the per diem department of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Her father’s family is variously described as owners of a steamship company and as a family of opera singers.
Neel is the fourth of five children (Hartley, Albert, Lillian, Alice, and George Washington, Jr.), the eldest of whom will die of diphtheria at age eight. In mid-1900 when Neel is about three months old, her family moves to Colwyn, Pennsylvania, a small town outside Philadelphia in Darby Township. The U.S. Census of 1900 records their address as 106 Third Street; two years later they are listed as residing at 110 South Third Street. 
She was raised into a straight-laced middle-class family during a time when there were limited expectations and opportunities for women. Her mother had said to her, “I don’t know what you expect to do in the world, you’re only a girl.

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Neel suffered the loss of her first child, breakup of her husband who abducted their 2nd child to Cuba, complete nervous breakdown, suicide attempt and poverty. She was able to still paint, had children from interesting lovers and became known as artist by allowing life to influence her. Politics, neighborhood, friends, admirers all impacted her life with real honesty and her truth speaks to truth.

Hilton Als Talk on Alice Neel

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