Jill gave me “Art & Fear” to read, from Tim, from Tim’s brother Troy. Outstanding book, quick read; an incredibly generous dose of the truth and reality about what the artist’s process is, how to survive it, and why we do it at all.
Three passages in particular jumped out at me.
“To require perfection is to invite paralysis … The seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you’re feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides – valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides – to matters you need to reconsider or develop further. It is precisely this interaction between the ideal and the real that locks your art into the real world, and gives meaning to both.”
The last sentence here rang so completely true to me, and not just about art; about morality, and about life. The middle space between the vision and the mundane is completely vital, and vitally hard to occupy. We tend to gravitate toward one or the other, to the detriment of both.
“…You can find urban white artists – people who could not reliably tell a coyote from a german shepherd at a hundred feet – casually incorporating the figure of Coyote the Trickster into their work. A premise common to all such efforts is that power can be borrowed across space and time. It cannot. There’s a difference between meaning that is embodied and meaning that is referenced.
I have always felt intuitively that difference in meaning, but never been able to articulate it as well as the authors do here. Reference/incarnation is probably more of a spectrum than an either-or proposition, but the truth of the statement persists. I seem to have a lower tolerance for referenced meaning than most of my peers – most of you? – I am interested in embodying meaning.
There is a moment for each artist in which a particular truth can be found, and if it is not found then, it will not ever be. No one else will ever be in a position to write “Hamlet.” This is pretty good evidence that the meaning of the world is made, not found. Our understanding of the world changed when those words were written, and we can’t go back … any more than Shakespeare could.”
This reminds me of Paul Tillich’s vision that our moral calling is to meet each moment with the precise love called for by that moment.
I wonder what is says about me, and about the connection between ethics and art, that I respond to what the authors write at both levels.
Read it if you can, especially if you are an artist struggling to produce your next, or first, work. Ask Jill to borrow it if you must! -h