A static screen, a blank canvas, an empty room, a yard of muslin, a clean sheet of paper. Any one of these things can be a portal to a cosmic place where symmetry and sensibility frolic in tailored bliss. We artists can go on these fantastic trips and dwell there for an infinity. It’s where we long to go. But when we return with the resulting art, we often suffer the consequences of having not delivered the “right” tone. Maybe the work is too happy. Too content. Too perfect. This sounds like a complete crock to me.
We revisit the blank space and this time our portals take us to the dark side of ourselves. We float away into bad memories and frightening experiences. We travel to regrets and times when we were powerless to change our circumstances. We go to those past destinations where we could do nothing more than watch and record. We draw from this tainted well and the resulting work is met with applause, acclaim, awards, affirmation. Critics want to hear about what makes us cry. Fans want to be shocked, offended and disturbed. It’s twisted. We make the world happy by revealing what makes us sad? Sure. Okay.
I wish I knew why this is so. I’d like to think that the world wants to see people overcome whatever tragedies have befallen them. I have my doubts about whether or not this is true. Take horror movies for instance. Big bad sociopath kills several people before being stopped by the one or two people who miraculously survive. The movies ends only to go on to a sequel where even more people are killed even though big bad sociopath was supposed to have been defeated in the previous film.
I wonder if life for the successful artist mandates permanent accommodations in this dark state. Must we always be willing to say what others can’t? To articulate the great pain of the masses by recounting our own little twisted tales? Why must we provide the safe haven for the hurt? Even as I type, I laugh at the melodrama of it all. We artists are the saviors of mankind because we dare to despair out loud. What a lovely little curse.
[singlepic id=687 w=320 h=240 float=left]Alas, who will be our heroes? The artists who came before us? Despite their penchant for being a motley crew of social misfits, they tell us more about ourselves than we care to know. They are cautionary tales, omens, storm advisories. They remind us that we can not dwell alone in these dark spaces. We can not hang our hats and sip our wine there for days on end. No matter the urgings from adoring fans or the reproach from harsh critics, we must come up for air and we must not breathe alone. After all, none of us really need to cut off our ear or take a stroll into a river.
My fellow artists, creatives, visionaries, luminaries, let us not forget to lean on the support of our loved ones. Let us remember to seek comfort in our friends. Let us remember to emerge from our lonely rooms and find laughter in life. Let’s remind ourselves that our happiness matters and so does our happy art. To hell with critics. Let’s retrain the fans. There is a place, a need and a desire for happy expression. There has to be because frankly I’m already tired of writing stories that make me cry.