Friday, February 15, 2008

What Is Art?

This year.

A girl I adore was gang raped. Violated and tormented in ways no person should be violated or tormented in.
Another girl was beaten by two huge guys and would have been raped if she hadn't 1) fought back or 2) been wearing a tampon.
This year another friend had a lover leave her after 8 years and her heart wrenches and aches as I type.
This year a friend has a very sick baby and there is nothing I can do to help his son or be there for him.
This year I've lost someone very important to me and my heart hurts.
This year my best friend has fallen prey to a vicious eating disorder which could very possibly kill her.

It's February.

What is art? It's a question I haven't tried to find the answer to. I don't look into it in case somebody says 'art is nothing'. I also don't look into it for the babble, for the bullshit. There are so many books writing about the importance of this or the importance of that but the insecurities of each writer reach out from between the lines and slap me in the face. People justify art because they want to feel jusitifed as a creator. People validify art so that their lives will be valid. That's not an answer to me. My life is valid because I am alive. I have friends, artists, who actually speak as if they are better than non-artists. Who claim they feel things more deeply, are more prone to insanity (said with pride), who claim they 'get life' more. I think this is bullshit, too. They're just people who want their lives to have more meaning, so this is what they say. I have friends, artists, who think being an artist is a key to free lands, that it ensures freedoms, that they can wear funky clothes or have crazy piercings and 'walk a different path' than mainstream. This is what being an artist means to them. And it's not the art that allows them's the illusion they create around what art is.

I don't need to justify anything to anybody.
Maybe that's why I don't care about what art is.
I don't need to feel recognised - maybe this is why when people ask what I do I do little more than say "I paint" and move on with the conversation.
I don't need to feel less alone as a person, either, which is why I don't buy book after book (and believe me, there are shelves full) of 'why artists matter' or 'the importance of art'

Last year I said to myself, and to others, that 2008 will be a fabulous year for art. And already, I've painted so much and conquered so much. But I didn't mean, when I said that, that it should be at the cost of the world exploding.
And the world is.
The worlds of the people I know are jagged and torn and we're all being thrown out to sea.

I don't paint to create something.
I paint to survive.
What is art?
Art is my survival technique.
When I cannot stand the horrors of this world, I choose to create a new one to live in.
I do that with my studio.
With my music.
With my incense.
With my singing.
With my dance.
By closing off.
But more importantly...I do this with my painting, by painting new things to believe in or identify with.

I am not ashamed to say that art, to me, is denial. Cowardly, selfish denial. That art is needy, a needing of new things. I'm not going to lie and bullshit and put feathers on anything. Art is something I do when I need to get away. It's only when I'm coming back that I finetune it and turn it into a challenging occupation. It's only when I'm coming back that I want it to reach other people. It's only when I'm coming back that I get excited about the community, about the creations of others, and about investigating fellow artists.

But before that, before that journey home....

art isn't about being something.
Art is about wanting something more.

And I want something more than 2008.
For everybody.
And I am painting up a storm.


(i love)...colours... said...

I can't quite explain why, but reading that whilst listening to your Tom Waites video made me teary!

You are beautiful. Your art is beautiful. Your writing is beautiful.

And yes - I totally understand how you use your creativity to create somewhere better, even if it's just for you, for you to escape to for the smallest moment or the longest stretch. I do too.


Lisa said...

Art is a beautiful world of dissociation. I wish I had a floaty half so full of wonder. I love you and am so glad you have this.

hayzie said...

Art, your art, is the nature of the imagination.

Kay said...

I can only speak for me...

Someone once asked me if I thought I was in a privileged position because I am an artist. The answer is no. But where I live now, artists are privileged, so in some ways I feel an obligation to paint, to justify my life here, to say this is who I am.

But I am many other things as well, and those parts of me are fighting one another at the moment. I wrote on my blog that there is more that I must do, but as yet I don't know what it is.

For me, as I think there is for you, there is also a need to paint or write. If I go too long without painting, I shrivel inside. But even if we paint to fill our own needs, to create our own worlds, we are also doing that for others the moment we say we are artists. Because in saying we are artists, we are public, and we are offering our insides to the world.

I hate exhibition openings, putting my work out for the world to judge. Because I put a part of my heart and soul out into the world, and I risk it being misread, trampled on, trashed by the words of others. I would rather paint, and paint, and have my work mysteriously reach the people who need it.

You are doing that, and reaching through the internet. You may paint for yourself, but your generosity of spirit puts your work out for those who need it to find it.

Even as a child, when you entered a room the sun came in with you. Now you send it around the world differently, not even knowing how many people you touch.

Don't stop. Create those worlds for those who need to read them, and if you create them first for you, that is why the honesty shows.

It doesn't matter what art is, or even if you call yourself an artist. It does matter that you make a difference in this world. And you certainly do that.

Heather said...

Very well written, Sarah. I still think you should incorporate your writing with your paintings. I don't mean it as an explanation of your art but as an addition to. You are very talented in so many ways. When I first "met" you, your writing was what you did. You have grown in many many ways since 1997 (I KNOW, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT'S BEEN SO LONG). Good on you.

Meatjunkie said...

Everything is a contradiction
Painting is a language
Language is weak
The more we speak the less we make sense

A teacher of mine in art school told us that he did not want his left hand to learn what his right hand knew he wanted his left hand to speak it's own language

On your question "what is art",
to Kvetch, Don't ask.

I can't listen to Mocking bird by Tom Waits, 1. it makes me cry, 2. I played it in my room one day when I was staying at my sisters. Her baby Daron walked in my room and started dancing to it. I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying. Something about it awakens a stolen innocence if it ever existed.

The world needs humans like you.