Just as there is a fine line between pleasure and pain (oh how I loved thee, Divinyls) so there is a gaping chasm at the heart of every artist. In order to create you do need a soul more sensitive than others, a sensibility a bit more fragile, a world view that does not accord with the masses, which puts you inevitably and invariably on the outside. What else can it do?
The artists role is to sit outside, to view the world, humanity and its infinite foibles from a distant land, so they/we can comment freely, unhindered by the norms that stem creativity, the imagination: ART.
The artist is soft, gentle, searching: sensitive. They have to be or they cannot do what they do: look, see observe: find things that we do not, see the world as it really is and make us see it anew, different, real or unreal. We must have artists in our lives, our communities to comment on the world and shape it for us.
But the artist is caught. She has to be sensitive, but she wants to be heard, read, viewed. And that means exposing yourself to the public; to ridicule, rejection, venom, ignorance: even death.
How does the artist reconcile these two opposing axioms – the necessity for sensitivity and the need for a public?
The public is quixotic, cruel, adoring, lambasting, forgiving, understanding, ignorant. How does an artist survive in the face of this?
Sadly some cannot manage this. The road to public acceptance, let alone acclaim, is riddled with dead artists, with those unable to withstand the brutality of their public lives. Consider the alcoholics: my beloved Fitzgerald, and Dylan Thomas. And the tormented: Van Gough, Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Frida Khalo, Mark Rothko and of course, Kurt Cobain.
Please feel free to correct me but I don’t think scientists top themselves with the monotonous regularity that artists do.
What does this tell us? That the imperative to create kills? Or is the critic, the rejecting agent, the cavalier reader, the careless reviewer, the indifferent public– do they drive the sensitive, the fragile gifted ones amongst us to the precipice and then without a thought, with a casual throw away line: ‘I don’t love it enough’ tip us into the abyss?
It’s hard to wrap your marshmallow heart inside a pachyderm’s hide but it is what you must do. Withstand the storms of criticism, the cruel winds of rejections, the swamps of ignorance and get your message out. An artist needs to be heard, they want to be heard, appreciated, challenged; they need to know that they have reached someone, that their work has a point.
Do not be like the house that has withstood the cyclone only to crumble in the summer breeze. (Images courtesy Google Images)