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ART TIMES July, 2005

THE TASK IS — and admittedly it’s a tough one — to hold fast to your own vision. How often we get sidetracked is an old story – an old repeated story. We start out with an original impetus, something that turns our attention to some inner compulsion to create our own world, and then, when it gets a little difficult, to start looking for an easier way. No one ever said that being an artist — of whatever discipline — was going to be easy. In fact, if you did your homework you already figured out that you were in a very exclusive club — a club that few join willingly and one that seeks you rather than your seeking it. The creative spirit comes from no one knows precisely where — try as the pundits have to locate its source. Reams of paper are devoted to how and where humans have discovered (or are afflicted by) the creative urge, but close reading (i.e. doing your homework) quickly reveals that your case doesn’t quite fit the mold and the simple fact is each artist’s particular vision is (and ought to be, must be) sui generis for it to be genuine. No one in the entire history of mankind has ever stood in precisely the same location as do you at this moment. No one has ever quite seen the world as you do and, if you have the creative power to share that viewpoint whether it be in the form of image, musical note or written word, your duty as one of the artistic elect is to do so. This is the payback to those of us who are less gifted for your privileged status as a creator. Consider Thoreau’s observation that it would be an earth-shaking experience to “see the world through the eyes of another for even a single instant”. Indeed, if it were possible, we would no longer be who we were.  All well and good, you say, but how does one cleave to that one-of-a-kind, once-only, exclusively-your-own, vision? Especially, you say, when no one else can recognize just what it is you are seeing (or hearing) while you, meanwhile, are slowly starving to death in your humble garret? Aye, there’s the rub, isn’t it? So, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have married into money — or at least to someone willing to support your craziness — how are you expected to survive in a world where everything — even, alas, including your unique vision — has been turned into a commodity? What’s so wrong with following the latest trend and turning your talent to making an honest buck? Well, nice work if you can get it. Truth is, however, that most of us — perhaps reluctantly at first but eventually, let us admit, sometimes a bit more enthusiastically — finally give in to the lure of a wider, appreciative public — especially when that public is willing to shell out hard cash for our stuff. Did that last still life that was wrenched from my soul really impress them? Well, if it was valid on that day, then why not for the rest of the week? Or even for the rest of my life? Why not turn them out wholesale so that I can put food on my table? Did my impression of a sunset come out in a musical theme that delighted someone else? Good! And, if I can rake in a few thousand capturing the likeness of some bigwig in glossy oil paint — well where’s the harm in that? You all know the answer. The harm is that you have polluted your own source by allowing it to be seduced by the marketplace. The harm is that you have forfeited your claim to “artist” and have become a mechanical producer of saleable artifacts — paintings, songs or stories that have found a market no matter how trite they may be. Nowadays, the old saw has been slightly altered to read “Portion is the greater part of value” — and we all, gifted or not, simply want our portion. Too bad that it costs us — and the world — so much.

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