Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Joy of Painting


The Joy of Cooking was clear. The joy of cooking. Not The Joy of Being a Cook. 

The joy of painting. Not The Joy of Being an Artist. I'm not sure I have ever seen any Joy of Being an Artist. Not any that wasn't completely delusional. Not any that wasn't a charade. It is a cliche of the first order to say that the pleasure is in the doing. Cliches are cliches because they are tiresomely true. The joy is in the painting.

It is like the real estate cliche. The joy is in the painting. The joy is in the painting. The joy is in the painting. And you have to keep saying it and never forget it.

Lately I find I avoid my artist friends because they are caught up completely in being artists. There is no joy in painting when you do that. I recently had the misfortune of trying to cheer up an artist at an opening who had just humiliated themselves at an auction where they had had to talk about their work to start the bidding; and no one bid! They just stood there as the egg was dripping off them.  I gave them every possible piece of sunshine regarding their work, and threw in a boatload of extra. It was like snowflakes in hell. They didn't want to hear about their work; they wanted to hear about their career, their success, their glory, their immortality, their fame and fortune--how great they are.

Now I have a friend who would be old enough to retire from teaching who is actually going to go into an art program(read school) and has to scrape up the money to pay for it. Money he doesn't have. Money he wants to bum from other people. And why does he really want to do this? Because he might be "discovered." Discovered by people who are still waiting to be discovered. He doesn't want to go to learn; he wants people to tell him how great he is. The last thing he wants is someone breathing down his neck while he is doing the one thing he loves. The last thing he wants is someone trashing the one thing he loves. Picking apart the one thing he loves. 

It is like these people who force their little girl up onto the stage. He is literally sacrificing this innocent thing, the joy of painting, for some greater glory. I've seen and known these artists with the greater glory. Half of them killed themselves. The other half were just miserable. There is no joy in being an artist. There is joy in painting.

Three painters I regularly enjoy talking to about art recently had their big shows. I haven't spoken to any of them at all since. I suspect they think it is because I am envious of their good fortune. Not so. I want nothing but the best for them. What I would prefer not to do is listen to them go on about how they were not selling, or not getting the attention they deserved, or not getting the parade carrying them off the field. At an opening a week or so ago I made the mistake of speaking to an artist because their work was an incredible relief. It was fun and funny. Then they proceeded to tell me how it wasn't their normal work. That their normal work was all about war and stuff, but they didn't think people wanted to see that. It was like stepping in dog doodoo. I spent ten minutes trying to get it off my shoe. People are the only creatures who make their own pain. Artists too often make the mistake of rolling around in it.


I love hearing about these people who achieve glory and success in some field like politics or movies and then turn to painting for pleasure. They really enjoy it. They love to paint. They never ever ever achieve any success as an artist. Never. Not one of them. You can't get in the back door. Not Winston Churchill. Not DH Lawrence. Not Garcia Lorca. Not Lawrence Durrell. Not Henry Miller. Not Anthony Quinn. Not John Lennon. Not Paul McCartney. Not Anyone. But. But they thoroughly enjoy painting. Sometimes I like their work just because of that. The joy, the innocence, the naivite. It is what is behind the appeal of outsider art. The joy of painting.

But not in the art world. Art World. In the art world that is just a load of hogwash. Something else is going on. Can you guess? Not the joy of painting. In point of fact, the opposite would probably be true. Isn't that sad? I think it is where Richard Tuttle and I parted ways; the sheer dismissiveness for the joy of painting; the sneer for those who felt it. Art is about something else. It is pain. Reminds me of the Crusades(killing for the love of God). The worst he ever dressed me down was when I really loved this little piece of his. Big mistake. It was all about his pain. Why didn't I see that!

I have work by Garcia Lorca, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell hanging on my walls. Right up there with works by Pollock, de Kooning, Guston, Motherwell, Resnick, Picasso, Braque, Walker, and Jensen. Right up there with work by my children. The Pollocks and de Koonings have to meet those standards, and they do. Maybe it explains their success. The paradox of it. If you forget you are lost. The joy of painting.

1 comment:

ulick mahoney said...

dear Addison thank you for the lively conversation on art and VSC..i have had a fair amount of success but i still want to learn more experience more and make art as one makes love.I only can speak for myself but the joy of painting is still in a innocence...i'll never be a John Walker,Dekoning or Caro..acceptance of my self as a human being who lives as best he can on spiritual lines takes a courage that only one can achieve through self acceptance.I battled for years with the bottle but found how empty i really was...but even 19and onehalf years down the line i must trust inthe suggestions others give me freely,because being alcohol free is just the begining,i could whine about alot...but to what avail.I'm not a writer or art critic or some obsessed person thinking of me,me me,whatabout my art...the world could care less if Ulick Mahoney paints or not the world didn't make me unique,i have flaws and character defects like any 58 year old "student".My life now is doing the work ofhelping other addicts get and stay sober...i dont get people sober i tryand share my experience strength and hope to the people society has forgotten or writes off i have a studio in my basement 5 people visited this year....hardly a crowd interested in modernist painting....the Joy of painting is alive in my household no rooms with dozens on the walls only afew here and there i maybe rambling but the little boy inside needs to move on i heard a friend say today its the small stuff that gets us not the big picture..maybe i'm running out of focus being gratefull being clean and sober is a gift an you keep it by giving it away carry the message not the drunk.....hookie stuff but we're talking life and death.I have as i feel alot of people that what diety you believe in we have free choice to go the way of the light or into the darknesss and use again the drug of our choice.....going away to Vermont for a month is part of my being not acculations or something to boast about to art dealer its part of my JOURNEY through life....58 is getting up there but i still have the need to learn....so as to conclude one day at atime first things first.....you cant live on air writing is not safe for me i feel the thoughts i aly out get misguided....i'm an honest painter rejection humbles me but it is so much apart of the theme of 12step life the JOY OF LIVING....enough