Tuesday, February 13, 2007


They are the rule. Artists who work in isolation, in oblivion, without support, without feedback, without real hope. In the current climate, during wartime, it is even worse. We have a Republican White House that has stolen all messages of hope, and culture, and humanity, and made everything about fear. Art is nowhere in the mind of our government.

I have said many times that art did not come over on the Mayflower. They were hard times, severe times, times about order and survival. Dreamers not welcome. Of course. When there is a job to do, dreaming gets in the way.

Needless to say, dreaming is essential to art. Call it musing. It is older than history. Musing, dreaming, meant tapping into some greater consciousness. You got me. Dreamer. The kid sitting by the window in school. And when there were no windows and I was sitting right in front of the algebra teacher and looking right at her, yes, I was somewhere else, far away.

What is it about dreaming? We know what Einstein said about imagination--that it's more important than knowledge(but then what did HE know?). We know what Freud and Jung said about the conscious and unconscious mind--that our awareness was limited--that we are no more than 10 to 50 percent conscious(inotherwords--half conscious at BEST!). We know that it is somewhere we go alone, by definition. Somewhere vast. We might share dreams, but they start inside us, and if we do share them, it means that they were already there.

To artists struggling in isolation, despair, I say, keep dreaming, and keep doing the thing you love, if only for a few hours a week. Don't let go of your dream.

Because here is the question: when we have a lifetime of work that keeps piling up, and no chance to share it, show it, let people come to it and contemplate it, enjoy it, benefit from it, celebrate it, get it, eat it, just look at it, listen to it, take it in, respond to it, share in it, experience it, maybe even admire it; well, how do we go on?

I have a friend showing his work in a church right now, and he is thrilled. Would he rather be at the Whitney, well, that would be hard to resist, but he is sharing what he does with his friends and neighbors, and well, you can't beat that.

But back to dreaming, because that is what the artist has to look forward to. Dreaming and working. And not dreams of success, or recognition, or grandeur or fame. Not dreams of glory. Those are hard dreams to resist, especially when you feel like you've done something special. No, it is the dream of life, of love, of family, of space, of color, of light, of stars, of mystery, of connection, of flying, of water, of fire, of peace, of the garden, of the streams and rivers, of the clouds and birds, of the beyond.

Dreams are a part of life, make no mistake. It is precisely the absence of dreams that makes the world we have to face these days on the news and in newspapers so grim and mean. We count on dreams. Not just our own. We count on the dreams of others, of children, to imagine a richer, sweeter, more harmonious, more thoughtful, more conscious world.

So artists have no choice but to take heart in their dreams, and their lives, and their work. To take heart in being an artist, being able to be an artist, that that is its own reward. To allow their dreams, and their lives, and their to flourish. To dream, and to become. To dream and to become their dreams.

And how do you do that? Reality check. You support yourself like everyone else. You don't look for appreciation, you appreciate it yourself. You don't look for recognition, you recognize yourself. Like everyone else. If being an artist is its own reward, than appreciate and recognize that you have been well rewarded. That you are lucky. That you are living your dream. Don't expect any more reward than that. This should all be pretty obvious, but it isn't. Somehow from the getgo fame, recognition, glory, success, are built into the definition of artist, and we all bought it. Again, it has nothing to do with excellence, it has to do with getting ahead, because all that stuff has never been a measure of excellence, even though we are being told it is. History tells us otherwise. History tells us that art happens in all kinds of strange places. Forget "outsider," whoever coined that one should be tarred and feathered. And put in a museum.

Reality check: support yourself. Believe in yourself. If you can do that, maybe you won't have to choose door number three. Maybe you can live to a ripe old age and die sitting in your garden in a straw hat. Now there's a dream!

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