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“Readiness is All”

Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES March 2006

WHO DOES NOT sympathize with the impatience of youth? Oh sure, the older we get our intolerance deepens but, given a moment or two of reflection, even we old-timers can identify with the energetic novice eager for his or her place in the sun. And probably, this is as it should be — after all, we’ve had our shot at it and there’s no point begrudging others eager to replace us — or for that matter — bettering us. The future, we sometimes like to say, belongs to the youth. Granted. But shouldn’t there be some consideration given to experience? God knows we’ve all gone off half-cocked now and then — and, at times, paid dearly for it. Ought we not drop a warning now and then to that tyro who is charging blithely ahead thinking he/she ‘knows it all’? I suppose it all evens out in the end — still. I am taken a bit back now and again by the young artist all agog with his or her own accomplishments. My eyebrows still travel up to my ever-receding hairline when I hear, “I’m doing something no one’s ever done before”. Oh, really? Some seem to have the idea that art history begins somewhere around the time they did their first painting — or ‘assemblage’ — or ‘conceptual’ bit — or whatever it is the up-and-comers are doing nowadays. Talk about re-inventing the wheel! Sometimes, I just want to put my head down on my arms and weep. But then, it’s not only the newcomers. Am I the only one who believes that not even middle age is mature enough at times to claim any degree of serious expertise? I suppose it’s our own fault — this fast food thing, you know. Everything has to be ‘stat’ today. I want it all now. My eyes glaze over when I’m invited to a retrospective show for some thirty-five-year old. What the hell do they have to look back upon? Retrospective! Maybe I’ve just heard too many serious artists wishing that they could reach the age of 100 so that they might have a chance to learn something. Learning – as every scholar knows — begets more learning. Education is meant to show us what we don’t know — not lull us into the mistaken notion that by taking a course we become ‘experts’ in a given subject. It takes a lifetime — and then some — to actually know anything about something. Even those in whom we entrust our lives — doctors — call their profession a practice. So why am I supposed to take seriously some young tyro who can barely contain his or her disdain when I refuse to oooh and ahhh over their latest creation? At least I don’t laugh out loud — although it does get more difficult to keep a straight face as time goes on. And, I no longer get too upset when they let out their audible sighs and exasperated flounces as they mentally note my gray, thinning hair and direct mumbled imprecations at my bent back as I slowly shuffle out the door. After all, the future is theirs — isn’t it? As far as this septuagenarian is concerned, they’re welcome to it.

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