Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I'm going to take a crack at this. What do I know? Not much, that's for sure. I just have a feeling about this, this idea of special.
Ok, I'm going to start with this very daring statement: I'm special. I'll say it again: I'm special.
Now I'll put that into context. I'm not alone. I think everyone is special; I think all life is special.
First off some people will say that everyone can't be special, that it undermines the meaning of the word. That if everyone is special then no one is special. I used to buy that. Not anymore. Life is special. Being alive is special. The gift of life is special. That's that. To paraphrase Camus: there are two kinds of people; those who know they're special, and those who don't.
Now could I be dreaming? I don't know. But there is more. In a funny way I've already defined special: being alive. But I'll say this; it is not the same as important, and I'll explain why. For starters, I don't think I'm more important that anyone else, just so that is clear. Period. I feel special with all my being, but I don't feel important. I believe special is a private thing, an innocent thing, a state of being. Important is relative. A matter of degree. Some things are more important, less important, it depends. It is comparative, even competitive. Not so with special. Nobody talks about special that way. Nothing is more special, or less. If something is special, well, then you can't take that away from it.
Or can you? So before I go too far I want to say that this is why I'm writing; I am making a case that this is a battleground. That not only is the world divided between those who know they are special, and those who don't, but that those who don't wage war against those who do; that they want to take special away from everyone.
How often do you hear someone say in the most glowing and positive terms: so and so doesn't think he's special(that's why he's our guy--team player). And likewise, those same people will say in the most accusatory way: you think you're special! See, it's bad. Heaven forbid that you should think you're special! Every chance they get, those people will try to take special away from anyone and everyone.
DON'T EVER LET ANYONE TAKE SPECIAL AWAY FROM YOU(or, as Patrick Swayze said: nobody puts Baby in a corner!)
Special is a state of being. It is spiritual. It is spirit. It is your spirit. When they talk about breaking a horse they say that you want to break its will, not its spirit. This is important. So often in our quest to break the will, we break the spirit instead, and the will gets stronger while the spirit disappears. Spirit and will are like love and lust. They sort of look the same, BUT THEY ARE NOT. Special and important sort of look the same, but they are different in the same way. As different as night and day. Now I know some of you don't feel special, hate special, can't remember when you felt that way, if you felt that way, when you lost it. Get it back. Take it back.
Special is spirit, not will. It does not try to prove; it just is. Will is all about proving, about fighting, about competing. Will is ego, and ego seeks to rise. These two things are often confused. Those who don't know they are special are generally threatened by special and sense some ego greater than their own that they must destroy.
Preserving one's innocence, one's spirit, being special, is not easy. It is not supposed to be. It is a challenge. One must also be wary of those who would seek to take it away. One must stay focused on the spiritual, the special. Do I have the answers here? Not at this time. Maybe never. But I do believe that along the way, we are all tested, sometimes from all sides. This is a road we walk alone much of the time.
And now I will talk about this in terms of art, in terms of being an artist. After everything I've said, maybe you already know exactly what I'm talking about in this regard; maybe you already sense that yes, some artists are all spirit, and some are all will, though most are probably some of both. Yes, there are artists who for all of us stand for this idea; artists whose work was more special than important; artists more about light than muscle; artists more about being than being important; more about spirit than glory.
Which explains why children seem so natural when it comes to art. It seems to just happen. Everything they do turns to gold. Yes, innocence, spirit, special, even happiness all seem to go together for children. And then, after a while, as they get older, it gets taken away from them bit by bit. First family and then school makes them have to prove themselves every step of the way, compete, and with each step they lose their innocence, their spirit, and that feeling of being special. That feeling of being special gets traded in for feeling important, superior, like a winner, like they are on top, and when that is complete all innocence is lost.
Which also explains why Matisse is so beloved, or E B White, or the Beatles. Each of them touched the innocence in those who feel it inside themselves. It is something we preserve. It is something we keep. And some of us, when we know we've lost it, do everything we can to get it back. We spend time with children, animals, we garden, we dream, we make art. Yes, maybe I'm dreaming, but I don't think so.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
This is a video companion to the previous post about the role curiosity plays in life in general, and in drawing and art in particular; in this case involving the process of tackling a drawing installation whose nature is essentially abstract: at Bow Street Gallery in Harvard Square.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
In the last couple of days I've been discussing something with writers and artists that brings up an old theme, one that circles around again and again in our lives from the first moment we can breathe to the last: curiosity. I hit on it the other night when I was talking about something that keeps me writing, inotherwords, keeps me working at writing a particular thing when otherwise I might give it up, to a person who understood that it was the same thing that kept him READING when otherwise he might stop. Curiosity.
I tried to point out, not successfully I might add, that I write like I read: that I want to know what happens next; that I write with as little knowledge or plan of what will happen next JUST SO I DON'T KNOW, so that I can find out through the writing while I'm writing, and that that will keep me going. Again, the CURIOSITY. I was pointing out how important it was that I was my own "avid" reader! That I want to know, that I'm curious, that the anticipation is part of the motivation, part of the pleasure, even part of the thrill!
The very next morning I was at Bow Street working on my drawing installation and an artist walked in and while explaining my whole "no plan, just draw" philosophy, it hit me like lightning that it was the same thing I was talking about the night before; that I was almost first and foremost a VIEWER; that I wanted to see what was going to happen as I was drawing and not before(Knowing full well that there is so much more that can come from my unconscious than from my conscious intellect. I've always thought that we unknowingly do what we are looking for; that the music or writing or painting we make is the thing we need from the world, the thing that is missing and we can fill in that blank, find and complete that in and for ourselves)!
Which reminds me of something else. I'm always a little sheepish because I find that I'm not always like a lot of other artists I meet. I'm a little naive in this way. "I'm an art lover." There, I said it. So many artists aren't to my surprise( I remember Richard Tuttle being very dismissive of this, this art love thing. He thought it was wrong. Misguided. Even kind of pathetic. I remember where I was standing when he said it. I knew I was guilty. I knew he knew I was, and that was why he was telling me. He was very protestant. Art was work; all she wrote.).
Frankly, I don't get it. I find it a little sad, myself, in a confused and non-judgmental sort of way. It happened just the other day when I thought for sure this other artist shared my "art lover" passion. He was noticeably not there. It was like a hot potato. There was an awkward silence. It was like I was a kid all of a sudden. Men, real men, real artists, aren't art lovers. They aren't "fans." Real men put away there love. But if you ask me, well, maybe they did it, do it, at their own peril.
And here is where this all comes into play: when I work, I'm an art lover, and I await the things I make or do with the same anticipation I get when I go to studios, museums, or galleries to see other people's work. It's how I feel about writing. It makes me want to write. It is how I feel about everything, almost. It is why people fear movies, because they fear that young people are going to want to go out and do these things that they see in these movies. Dangerous things. Call it influence. A dirty word in art. I read Louis Menand put down the new novel by Michael Ondaatje in the New Yorker recently by making an issue of his influences. It allowed Menand to treat him like a boy to his man; a boy, by the way, whose power and INFLUENCE he will never ever, ever, EVER know. Still, the academic tried to get on top of the artist by calling him out into the street and publicly horsewhipping him with his weakness: his influences: his art love.
So this is where I live. Art lover. It keeps me reading, writing, playing music, listening, painting, drawing, sculpting, and looking and loving art. It keeps me childish. It keeps me curious. It keeps me happy. It keeps me alive!
By way of a little post-script. So what happened? Someone asked me: "how do other artists do it(hang their work out there, their love out there, and suffer the slings and arrows or the indifference)" because they can't, they suffer too much, it is all too much.
The love was there in the beginning with every artist, I'm sure. Like a puppy. And then what? The love wasn't returned. They hung their work out there and the love didn't come back. And then what? They put the love away. They hid it away. And then they called it all something else. They made art something else. They made it "work." They made it important in some other way. To compensate. Over-compensate. When I would interview someone this was always apparent, this secret love, hidden love. First they would tell me it was all this and that, juxtaposition of this and that, and then, when I would get them to put away their armor and sword, well then, it was about some pair of pajamas they had as a kid, or the way their mother smelled. But it was understood that it was off the record. Hide the hurt. If I wrote this stuff I exposed them, and I did, and they never talked to me again.