Derailed train of thought.

Sorry. It's not that I haven't been thinking about the blog. It's just that we put our house on the market last week and have been dealing with all of the psychotic decluttering and cleaning and touching up that goes along with having to have your house ready to show at any random time. Woo hoo. Anyway, this next part of chapter two is something I really do struggle with quite a bit.

The writer does want to be published; the painter urgently hopes that someone will see the finished canvas (van Gogh was denied the satisfaction of having his work bought and appreciated during his life time; no wonder the pain was more than he could bear); the composer needs his music to be heard. Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work has been still-born.

Sweet fancy Moses! Seriously? Because every time I secretly long for someone, besides myself, to find meaning and joy in my artwork? I feel like admitting that would make me a sell-out. A bunch of my art professors believed in the purity of Ars gratis artis ("Art for art's sake".) There was almost a pride in not having your art published or "appreciated." At the time, I thought it was all so artsy and cool and whatever. Now? I sometimes wonder if that attitude wasn't just so some of those people could claim their art wasn't "appreciated" because the lesser among us just can't appreciate "true art" and believe themselves to be on a much more enlightened level than the rest of the non-artistic mere mortals below.

I know that's not the case for 100% of the artists out there who hold tight to the idea of art for art's sake and I'll get back to Ars gratis artis and it's place in what we're talking about at some point. But in this scenerio I'm talking about it's this attitude that carries a sense of pride in being so talented that no one can truly appreciate your work and so it's only real purpose to to be. To be created and to exist. And apparently exist to be only be accessed by those smart or cool or artsy enough to "get it." And if you do anything else with your work? Aside from letting it be? Then you are obviously a sell-out. Gah! I hate that ideology. Hatehatedetestpooyuckblech! It's not realistic. And it's not even really honest. I mean, come on. What artist really says, "I'm going to allow this piece to be born and yearn for it to just sit and collect dust and only be looked on by me and anyone I deem worthy who happens to come over for coffee..."? What's the use in that?

Madeleine L'Engle says, The reader, viewer, listener, usually grossly underestimates his importance. If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life.

I think that statement is very true. And what's more unfortunate? Like I said above, I think it's a very few artists among us who have perpetrated the belief that the public isn't capable of being important to art. For some people? It seems like the art is all about the artist; that it's a means of learning more about that artist instead of letting the artist help the public to learn more about the art itself. To the these people? The art is just another adjective to describe the artist, no more important than the clothes they wear or their favorite foods.

Madeleine goes on to say:

So there is no evading the fact that the artist yearns for "success," because that means that there has been a communication of the vision: that all the struggle has not been invalid.Ok. So? Where does that leave me? What does success me to me anyway? I mean, in today's world success is usually measured by the amount of money or fame you have. Is that the kinds of success we want as artists? I'm sure there are some people who create their art in pursuit of those things. But I'm not sure I'm one of them. I think I used to be. I think I felt like I had to be able to say I'd been paid for my artwork before I was really allowed to say "I'm an artist" because calling myself an artist seems to indicate an occupation or a role I play in society. And then you're right back to the idea that if you're good at your job? You get paid or become well known for it. Now? I'm thrilled with how many artists there are out there carrying day jobs. Insurance, Directors of Litergical Arts (shout out to Betsy, yo), and stay-at-home-moms who run households and do laundry and feed children and do hundreds of other things that they'd get paid for if they did them for someone besides their own family. We are all so much more than our occupation, regardless of what it is. We are who we are and we just happen to do different things for a living.

So what do I consider success? Connecting. Touching someone with your particular brand of art. Being good at what you create. And by "good?" I mean being good at allowing that part of you that creates to be free to create what it needs to, to step back like Madeleine wrote in chapter one and let the art take over. Let the teaching take over. Let the writing and knitting and gardening and creating take over. And when it does take over? It's honest and real. It applies to someone's life. It affects people. Even if that affect is elliciting a genuine smile or feeling of comfort or joy or hope awe at true beauty (hydrangias in bloom stop me dead in my tracks every time.)

I'll be honest, I have a family that I would like to help by contributing to the budget somehow. Occasionally I get freelance graphics jobs and have to suck up the fact that my version of art and the client's version often doesn't quite match up. But again... an occupation. But the few times I've tried to buckle down and create unsolicted art for the sole purpose of selling? The art was dead. And what's worse? I HATED it. Actually couldn't stand to look at it and what I had left was thrown away because it felt artificial. Throwing it away felt more honest than keeping it and made me so much happier. I'm weird. I know. I'm not saying I don't want to be paid. That would be lovely, thanks, to have someone connect with my work to the point where they say, "I believe in this and appreciate it to the point where I'm willing to pay you to let me keep it and make it my own." I'm all for that.

So I have to figure out a balance. But at least I can say, out loud without fear of being pelted with paint brushes and chisels (sculpture classes, you know), that I would love success if that success were to come about because other people connected somehow with what I create. Translating "Art for art's sake" into "Art for people's sake" may be more accurate?


Heather said…
I never understood art for art's sake -- when I was in college, I always thought it was about recognition, etc... because I didn't consider myself an artist. Now, I think why would you put so much talent, time and message into something for no reason but to have it and not share it? (Not necessary for money or recognition, but to share.) I think that God understands what Madeline is saying: He created us - we are works of art... and he didn't create one and call it good. He created and is creating (not just humans) and is showing off His majesty. AND, if our talent is of God (which it is -- all good things...) then we should want to show that off as well. Not for the sake of our creation, but for the sake of giving Glory where Glory belongs...

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