Saturday, May 26, 2007

Angst-free art

I've been thinking a lot lately about art, and being an artist, and what it all means, and I keep going back to the same old question that has plagued me for years:

Does one need to have angst to be an artist?

You know what I mean, even if you haven't thought about it.

When you think of "artist," you think of either dead people, who typically had tragic lives that ended in tragic deaths, or at least some pretty hefty quirks (Van Gogh's ear issue, for instance), or alive people who are currently living their tragic life. They don't have much money (hence the whole "starving artist" term) and are quirky. They live in attics, and do things like sacrifice eating in order to paint.

They are not typically middle-class white girls who live in the suburbs with their husbands, two-year-olds, and two cats.

At least, that's what I feel like some times.

I guess the real issue is this: I don't feel as though I can be taken seriously as an "artist" because I have a pretty good life that isn't necessarily artsy.

I mean, I like to think I have a fair amount of my own angst to cart around (broken house, wish I made more money, am I a good mom, M's bum shoulder, body issues, etc.), but you know, all in all, my life is pretty damn good. There's no hiding from that.

I don't starve, and I love my day job. Which makes me incredibly lucky that the thing I do (work) to do the thing I love (photography), I happen to love, too. But it doesn't exactly make for a very traditionally romantic "starving artist" story, you know?

Then I go back to the label of "artist" and I wonder why it's so important for me to have that label, to have that title. It doesn't pay me anything, it's not how I make my living. No one who loves me cares whether I'm really an artist. So why do I want so much to be recognized as an artist? And who, really, am I hoping will say, "Hey, you're an artist!"?

I don't want the angst, the tortured soul, the just-scraping-by lifestyle. I likes my comforts, and my treats, and getting to see new places and have new experiences, and the finer things of life.

I read photographer biographies, searching, I suppose, for the key: what do I have to do to be an artist?

Edward Weston, my favorite photographer, sacrificed darn near everything for his art. He lived simply, and at one point even left his four boys to go to Mexico for awhile. I could never, ever leave Zozo, so that's out (although I must admit the living simply thing is quite appealing to me).

Ansel Adams was a nature freak, and spent scads of time climbing in the mountains and camping. Um, no. So not for me.

Edward Stieglitz was a spoiled snot with family money and an amount of self-esteem that makes Donald Trump look humble.

I just realized that never once, in these biographies, have I read about the days those great photographers had that have to be like some of my days. The days they spent going through bills and paperwork, just trying to get to their art (in their case, freeing up time to work, in my case, a more literal sense in that our computer cabinet that houses my computer and photo printer is also our family's home office). Did they, like me, wonder, "Do I have what it takes to wear the title "artist?"

I'm sitting here at my computer, and there are bills piled up on my printer, and a cracked Tupperware container that's supposed to remind me to print the instructions off the internet on how to send it back to get it replaced, and I think, "this isn't very artsy."

And then I look harder, and I listen. I hear the rain falling outside the window I just opened right next to me (I get hot sitting here, and as much as M hates it - "I refuse to air condition the world" - after he goes to bed I frequently open my window to feel the breeze and hear the outside...shhh...don't tell him), and watch Max try to inhale everything he can through the screen. I see a stack of memory cards from shots I recently downloaded to the Mac, sitting near the empty box of Altoids that's waiting to be refilled because I have to have Altoids stashed everywhere. I see an extra ink cartridge (magenta!) stuck to the bulletin board behind my screen, and three different kinds of photo paper stored on the shelf above. I see the found little bits of inspiration I've tacked up, and the post-it note crammed with scribbled one-hit wonders I'm waiting (for no good reason, really) to buy off iTunes. I see pictures of Zozo, and of Joey (my nephew), including one of the drafts of Zoe's first birthday invite, the one with all the little pictures of her face, that is all jacked up because my ink nozzles were clogged when I first started printing, so she looks like a devil baby and it cracks me up to no end. I see the image my friend Kevin made of me and our friend Ryan in high school that is one of my most cherished possessions, and I see my most favorite mat-cutting ruler ever.

I see these things, and they make me happy, and they make me feel creative.

And I think, yeah, maybe, just maybe, I'm an artist after all, even without the angst.


Post a Comment

<< Home