David and the Mona Lisa—two of the most iconic works of art in Western history—were created at the same time, in the same city, by rival artists. The story of those artists’ legendary competitiveness is now told in a new work of historical fiction, Oil & Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo (2016, Arcade Publishing), by fine arts alumna Stephanie Storey.
Storey, a self-described art fanatic who has worked as a writer and television, film and news producer in Hollywood for the past 15 years, embarked on a national book tour last spring to promote her debut novel. In April she stopped at the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt Bookstore for a signing and reading—coincidentally on the same weekend that a film she helped produce, called Broke*, was screened at the Nashville Film Festival.
“To have these two creative events cross at this moment, in my emotional home of Nashville, was one of the most amazing coincidences of my life,” Storey says. “The filmmaker was a dear friend named Will Gray who lost his battle with cancer in 2013. I got to see Will’s film, but he never got to read my novel. Will was a creative, inspiring, passionate musician who believed in chasing your dreams. Having my book tour cross with his movie at the Nashville Film Festival made me feel like Will got to join me on book tour.”
Oil & Marble is a hit with the critics. The New York Times called it “tremendously entertaining and ‘unapologetic’ in its artistic license.” Booklist wrote, “The artistic process can be one of self-doubt, struggle and sheer physical exertion, and Storey depicts the drama here with truth and insight. A rewarding read for art aficionados and fans of historical fiction.”
“I’ve had an interest in art my entire life, but it was Vanderbilt that made me fall in love with art history and taught me the importance of imagery in shaping our society,” Storey says. “In so many ways, I owe this book to my professors at Vanderbilt: Vivien Fryd, Leonard Folgarait, Robert Mode, Barbara Tsakirgis, Ljubica Popovich and Michael Aurbach all encouraged my love of art. Plus, I studied art in Italy for a semester through Vanderbilt’s study abroad program, and it was during this semester that I fell in love with a guy named Michelangelo.”
—PHILLIP B. TUCKER