Monday, March 06, 2006

an artist's struggle

Got back in touch with an artist friend we hadn't seen for a while. He disappeared for a bit, a bit disillusioned about his writing. So, it was quite a surprise when W was in town from the east coast that we should get a call from him. Since we didn't have anywhere to go, we all decided to meet at a Vietnamese restaurant at 655 Larkin. I forget the name. But it was quite serendipitous, because it just so happened that the restaurant was packed but S and I happened to know the waiter, whose family owned the place.

Anyway, during the conversation after dinner, N says an interesting thing. He says, "I don't believe in the struggling artist anymore." The last time we had seen him about a year and a half ago, he was not someone who would have ever said that. Then W, who I'd say 4 years ago would never had agreed with him, tells the story of her friend in Hawaii who is completely embraced in the "struggling artist" ideal: living in Hawaii, in a gallery basement, feeling like people don't understand her abstract work, yet not wanting to really put her work out there.

The danger of so many artists thinking they have to be the "struggling artist" is that ironically it's in their struggle that they no longer become an artist. They end up struggling so much, that even they cannot let go of their own work, to the point that no one ever sees their work, because they are struggling to hang in there, the only thing they can grab and hold onto is their art. It is this need to cling to one's art that in the end also kills one's art. When you are struggling to keep a roof over your head, who has time to produce art? Unless you hit the lottery and find yourself an art patron who is willing to give you advances.

So here I was listening to W and N tell their stories. W has changed so much. She's doing well in her chosen career, she bought a house, she's no longer clinging and pining for men that weren't good to her anyway, and she's genuinely happy. And N seemed to be entering the turning point that W was in 4 years ago. I was happy for them.

Interestingly enough W and N's tarot readings reflected where they were. Hell W, even got a card that implied a serious long term relationship in the far future, which she never got before.

Art is a struggle but not in the ways we think struggle should be. The struggle is in the creation of the art, not in the struggle of living.


barbara jane said...

good post, michelle.

i tend to think the romantic notion of the struggling artist really has a lot to do with our middle class and bourgeois upbringing and the "guilt" it may cause, for growing up middle class/bourgeois seems to be a black mark against our authenticity as especially community artists.

:-) thanks for this.

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

"Art is a struggle but not in the ways we think struggle should be. The struggle is in the creation of the art, not in the struggle of living."

Thank you for the koan of the day, m'dear. This is so smart!

EILEEN said...

Well said, you!