Sunday, December 06, 2009


When we think of artists of any genre, be they visual artists, playwrights, storywriters, poets, essayists or sculptors, it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming they have what amounts to super powers. “Oh, of course they are good, and produce wonderful and evocative work, because of the wonderful places they live, the amazing people they encounter or the exotic locales in which they live!” We convince ourselves that if we lived such an inspirational existence and were surrounded by fascinating or bizarre people, we too would have a shot at greatness and immortality. We worry that our mundane existence will never result in getting anything sold or published, because our associates consist of the losers at work our boring relatives and the folks in the neighborhood. We are cursed to live in a cookie cutter apartment or a desolate suburban community, and there are no cathedrals, sailing ships, or mysterious, gimlet-eyed nomads, living in yak skin yurts to be seen anywhere. There are no wonderful stories in our lives, and we have no treasure at all in our artistic savings bank.

First of all, I’d like to introduce you to a few people whose blogs I read regularly. Tai lives in Central California (not a yurt to be seen), and writes and illustrates thoughtful, poignant and evocative vignettes about everyday life, while Gypsy Woman creates evocative visual/verbal observations about life. Hélène has constructed a hand drawn whimsical (and quite poignant) narrative of her life as a clerk in a bookstores as she hopefully awaits George Clooney, while Sarah, The Unpaid Intern, is an “urban anthropologist” in London, bringing to life moments of connection she observes while riding the tube or taking walks. On a far more somber note, Risa, a hospice professional, writes about her life and her work in end of life care, trying to parse meaning and truth while surrounded by death and dying. I don’t know any of them personally but their art transports me to worlds I have never visited, and helps me see truths I did not know existed. These women write, not based upon their visits to exotic locales, fighting mercenaries in French Indo-China or prowling the back alleys of Beirut for the CIA (although they might be willing to give it a go). I imagine they look, act, live and work in very prosaic ways, but the words they use and the images they convey are anything but ordinary. These are people who have learned to use their eyes and ears; who have accessed levels of their minds and memories most of us ignore, and most importantly of all, they are people who are willing to dare. They dare to look, they dare to dream intensely, and they dare to have the courage to “put it out there”.

This is what an artist does – she allows us to see a bit of the world through her own eye and percolated through her own sensibilities and perspective, a different viewpoint and a vision with a different bias than our own. These are people who have learned not to just walk, ride, drive or hop from point A to Point B, but to experience the journey. They see things others pass by, they hear things others ignore, and they touch things from which others pull back. No, I am pretty certain that they do not have x-ray vision, particularly acute hearing, or an exquisitely sensitive sense of touch, but they do keep their receptors active, and actually stop to find out what something smells like, rather than guessing and moving on. Artists are brave souls. They also are not afraid of getting messy.

As an example, here is a snippet of overheard dialogue The Unpaid Intern posted:

"Oh Andy he's such a lovely bloke, I call him my teddy bear."

That's nice I thought as I absent-mindedly eavesdropped.

"I mean seriously, he is such a lovely bloke." Her friend made a sound like "hmmm"

"He has just got out of prison though". Her friend turned to her.

"Oh yes" she said "What he do?"

"Manslaughter. Although don't know how they got it down to that. He did reverse over the bloke. Twice"

"God!" Said her friend.

"No but seriously he is lovely. You just can't push him or he'll loose it"

"The thing is" said her friend "There will always be someone to push him"

The woman paused "I hadn't thought of it like that."

Posted by unpaid intern at 10:28 am

A conversation, overheard between two women, while riding to work. In this brief dialogue, we have a wonderful insight into the two unnamed women, their personalities and their worldview. We find ourselves intrigued by the boyfriend, and it is great good fun to imagine how their relationship plays out. We also experience the duality that art can portray so beautifully – what is truth and which of the two characters is closer to a truth that is going to affect their life and their future? This is an entire story, waiting to be written, and it takes place during a one-minute conversation during a ten-minute commute to work. No trip on the Marrakech Express with the assassin in one cart and the Femme Fatale in the next.

I would like to suggest an assignment before you go on to the next essay. The assignment? - Go and visit some art. You will find art exhibits almost everywhere – they are more common than you might think. There are commercial art galleries that sell crafts and fine art, they are always free, and there is absolutely no pressure to buy. Most colleges and universities have galleries or exhibitions, museums will have larger collections, and often traveling shows move about the country, anchored in exhibition halls or even malls. If you live in or near a big city, hotels, major office buildings and banks often have exhibits in their lobbies. During the holiday season, many localities have artist’s marts or gift shows. I am not suggesting you go and buy (unless of course you are so motivated), but to look and wonder. Art almost always originated out of the artist’s wonder, and the viewer needs to wonder to get the full impact. You are not required to like it, want it or even feel that it matches the sofa, but it is important to give yourself permission to emotionally react to it. If something doesn’t “do it for you” well than just move on. Sooner or later, you will discover one that opens a line of communication.


Sarahlah said...

Thanks again. Thanks, as always.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

i am just now reading this post although i read your most recent post some time ago - i somehow seem to have missed this one - in any event, i am very humbled that you honored my words and visions here and i thank you for that - a great post inspiring us all!!!