April 5, 2013 |  by

Recall Dorothy’s reference to Eric’s speech impediment in her notes:

“Stuttering speech impediment.  Mrs. Jessop, speech therapist.  Ran from her in the Forrest Hill home” –  (see full post of April 2, 2013)

was echoed by the artist on many occasions.  At the time, Eric Sloane’s condition was called “stuttering”, something he struggled with throughout his life.  Viewers of the excellent Profiles in American Art video shown to visitors of the Eric Sloane Museum in Kent, Connecticut can detect anomalies in Eric Sloane’s mode of speaking.

One aspect of Eric Sloane’s print interviews that are curious to me is that Eric’s responses to interviewer’s questions are often strikingly similar across both interviews and time.  Different interviews conducted over various years often reveal very little change in Eric’s responses.  I have wondered if the reason for this striking similarity in response could be attributed to Eric’s speech impediment.  Could Eric Sloane have memorized responses to often asked questions in an attempt to mitigate the effects of his speech impediment?  Practicing, rehearsing, and ultimately memorizing responses to typical interview questions, if true, might have served to allow Eric Sloane to focus on how he was saying something as opposed to what he was saying.  Taking this admittedly shaky hypothesis to an even more unstable ground, it might also serve to explain why Eric Sloane sometimes gave what appears to be a “stock answer” to an interviewer’s question, yet the response makes little sense in the context of the question asked.  In these limited examples, the question asked of Eric Sloane falls well out of the norm of typical interview questions.  Re-reading these old interview transcripts does at least give the impression that Eric Sloane may have memorized his responses to commonly asked questions and that when asked a question that fell out of the normal range of expected questions, Eric Sloane provided a “stock answer” which may have not answered the question asked of him.

To be clear, this is not a critique of the artist.  If anything, it is illustrative of both his humanity and his courage.  If true, it would serve as yet another inspiring example of both how incredibly hard Eric Sloane worked at so many aspects of his personal and professional lives, and just how much courage he could muster in granting interviews which he knew would be memorialized in print.


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