Monday, March 18, 2013

A mediocre artist: to be or not to be?

August (Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak).
24"×36" (61×91.4cm). Oil on canvas. May 2012

Does it make any sense, to be a second-rate artist (a painter, a poet, a musician)? Or a third-rate one, for that matter?

It obviously does from the self's point of view, but that's not what I've been thinking about. Rather, does it matter in the grand scheme of things? In the world of art which has seen Rembrandt, Shakespeare and Bach -- constellations of bright lonely stars, which define for us what Art is, and remain forever, so long as men can breathe and eyes can see? Does your work matter? Can it

This argument has certainly been thrown at many aspiring youngsters, if only their parents and mentors were refined and sophisticated enough not to confine themselves to the financial and social repercussions of this choice. It certainly had a compelling ring to me, more years ago than I care to count.  

And yet, it is an absolutely faulty argument, as misguided as it is superficial. Even if not a single piece of your work survives even for one generation, if it all dissolves into nothingness and your name is forgotten, it still matters. Why? Because however star-like the geniuses look, it is a wrong metaphor. Rather, they are pinnacles of a mountain range; or, if you wish, roses on richly fertilized soil. 

They are lonely, that's true; everyone is lonely in the solitude of their minds, and the geniuses much more so than everyone else. And still, they cannot, and never do, exist in a vacuum -- neither as Artists, nor as Humans -- just as defenseless and fragile as everyone else; as prone to suffocation without an atmosphere; and to despair without compassion. There would have been no pinnacles without mountains, and there would have been no Art without mediocre artists. 

So yes, you do matter in the grand scheme of things. Just work on, keep going... 

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