Last Thursday was the third Thursday, traditionally the day of the month that NOMA Gallery artists, and any interest public persons. gather to discuss things art. We never really know what direction our discussion will take, serious or humorous or a combination of both. Last week's discussion in small part referenced Fellini's movie 81/2. By coincidence there was an article about this movie as it explains the artist. I have written a response to this beautiful article as it applies to me.
Last Thursday (February 20th) , in NOMA Gallery’s monthly artist talk, Fellini’s movie “81/2” was discussed as it relates to our processes as artists, and pushing the edge. Coincidentally, this past Sunday (February 23) Sebastian Smee, art critic for the Washington post wrote a beautiful article about the effect that movie has had on him. His article made great sense to me, and I am going to react to it here.
Mr. Smee asks “Why are artists so selfish and entitled ( and often better artistically…Why must the rest of us suffer as they go on suiting themselves, indulging their fancies…?”
I am an artist, a sculptor and glass artist, I knew I was an artist even as a toddler, and can remember an elementary school art teacher telling me that I was making trees wrong. I told her to go away. I have always been a productive artist. I thought myself better than most of my artistic peers, and still do. I have always been selfish in my pursuit of my artistic goals, much to the detriment of personal relationships. I had and have a “Don’t get in my way” attitude. But I also suffer from the same extreme lack of self- confidence that most of us hide within ourselves, creating the bravado bullying and other behaviors typically observed in artists.
Mr. Smee writes “for all the attention artists seek,” (applying to juried shows, contacting galleries for group and solo exhibits and becoming members of galleries) there is a kind of shame in being “understood”. Being “explained” is never more than an inch from being “explained away,” rendered redundant, losing the vital quality that makes you unique.” This last quote feels especially personal. It is why I, and many other artists, will not explain their work. When asked “What does it mean?”, I always reply “ You tell me”. I don’t want my work to match a couch or be automatically understood. The viewer must see something, but I hope it is different for everyone, thus making it universal if intangible.
Smee quotes the poet James Fenton, who wrote “when everything we did was hailed as superb... We learnt about rhythm and we learnt about new ways of making a noise, and every noise was praised.”
Fenton continues “Because there follows the primal erasure, when we forget all those early experiences…”
With this I totally disagree.at least in my own case I can remember joy and pain from age two onward and this joy and pain combines equally to create the constant motivation I have for the act of creation. That is not to say it is not a struggle. It is always a struggle- is it good enough, will it ever leave my studio, should I trash it and start again, do I hate it, do I love it, what does it mean to me, and on and on.
“Genius” wrote Charles Baudelaire, “is nothing other than the ability to retrieve childhood at will.”
So, I am a genius, but I always knew that. My childhood, indeed, my entire life, is always with me. I could not escape it if I tried, and I have tried. I am arrogant, I am judgmental. But age has given me the ability to temper the flaunting of younger years. Solipsism: a self-descriptor, sometimes.
I am an artist.