Sunday, July 27, 2008


Last night I was talk'n art smack with Dan Barney and I worked myself into a rather deep dither. I'm not sure what a dither is, exactly, but I'm in it. This dither thing happens when I think too hard about painting and my relevance as an art maker today. Here's the thing, I don't live in Italy in the Renaissance. If I were a painter there and then, my paintings would have a clearly defined purpose. Of course being female would have presented a problem, but that's another topic. Painting is what I want to do. Conceptual art is interesting to me. The theories and reflections and connections teach me to see, give me an awareness...but I want to paint. I want to explore different narratives and use symbolism to paint layers of meaning. It's not heavily philosophical or super sophisticated artwork. It's somewhat indulgent and pretty. Sheesh! How can I become the patron saint of painting if my life's work is indulgent and pretty? Thus, the dither.

Later on, I was reading an interview in this summer's Art Forum with art critic, Peter Schjeldahl. He was asked if he felt moved by the basic nobility of artist. His reply was this. "It's a great privilege to be an artist. You get to discover the outer limits of your talent and freedom. You get to see the world from a high place. If you flop and end up with a square job in Dubuque, you will already have a wealth of knowledge and experience that 99.9 percent of humanity can only dream of. Do not whine."
So okay, I should stop the whining and dithering but then I started thinking about another thing he said.

"I'm a believer in that great book by Edmund Wilson, The wound and the Bow [1941],which relates creativity to psychological damage. Artists are unhappy people, or they wouldn't be so desperate to make the world different. That's common sense."
...and now I'm up to my neck in dither AGAIN.
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7 comments:

I Am said...

What did Dan have to say about your artistic dither? Matisse was a happy artist wasn't he? I think that was one of things Picasso disliked about him.
I enjoyed reading the article by that art critic, although I think its a mistake to think that we have to protect our souls, our souls are indestructible, it's our ego's that often can't take the heat. When people try to protect their souls that's when pretense creeps in and obscures the authentic.
So true that isolation both nurtures and causes suffering, but I guess the same can be said for social interaction.
Anyway good food for thought, thanks!

Gritty Pretty said...

YO Lady.

Your art is passionate and weighty. You're populating an alternate world where women are all shades of fascinating.

Your vision is one I can step into.

Gritty Pretty said...

And I disagree with Peter (gasp). Artists aren't de facto unhappy (they just have creative ideas to express!) Maybe a better overarching stereotypical description is that artists are more persistent "yearners". I think "Unhappy" implies inaction and artists come equipped with a "kick it into high gear" mechanism. And yes, artists yearn for visions.

p.s. you make being in a dither sound FUN (like hmmmm...maybe i should get me one of those "dithers").

Sharmyn said...

Hello - de-lurking here. Can I just throw in my two-cents? That your work is pretty is no question, lovely is more like it. That you have inspired me and that I desire to express myself artistically as you do, no question. In a way your work, and your consequent blogging about it are a gift to me. Thank you for sharing your talent.

Don't forget the part about Heavenly Father giving you this talent. Realize that as you magnify it, you are also showing a form of worship. Yes, it is true, there are many artists with obvious problems (hello Francis Bacon?)but that desire to create, to make something beautiful (and your work certainly does that)is part of your divine heritage. So, for what it's worth - don't dither, move your churnings and burnings into the realm of worship and you will be blessed with peace. At least that is how I see it!

pamo said...

i can understand the predicament. that is weighty stuff.

i think i've always viewed artist as having something God put in them. that something is a literally insatiable desire to create. not having anything to do with happiness or unhappiness. just a need to 'feed the beast'. the 'create' beast.

Nigel said...

I got nuthin'. I prefer a good lather instead of a dither.

Not all artists are unhappy, but it seems the best ones are.

I do think a lot of artists waste time trying to be someone else, or (even worse)someone important. In the end, all I can ever do is paint like Nigel.

(I think that previous line would ring truer if I didn't have to use my internet pseudonym...)

Laura A said...

I agree with much of what's been said, which is good, since I'm late to the party.

For me, creating beautiful things comes not from desperation that there isn't enough already, but from an inability to contain all of the inspiration and joy from what I see, inside my body and mind. It has to escape to make room for more.

You know the more gratitude you express, the more grateful you feel? The more anger you express, the more you feel angry? The more beauty you create and dwell in, the more you see it in everything around you. You just can't physically contain all of that inside. There isn't room.

Now musicians... there's where I think unhappiness fuels the craft. I try to write songs, but I'm too content a human being to write good ones. Tho' I still try. They sound cheesy. There's only so much room for "isn't life great?" music, in my opinion, which is a shame.

Unless it's strictly instrumental. That works well with joy and contentment. Hmmmm. Now there's a thought...

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