Breathing is essential to life… art is not.
Food, clothing, shelter, these are all essential as well, but if we don’t make art, we won’t die. Yet, as most artists will tell you, creating art is as important as the air they breathe or the food they eat… that it is sustenance. They need to create, to bring into the world beauty and passion and relevance through their art.
Herein is the greatest paradox of the artistic world: the “starving artist.” The painter cannot eat the canvases or the brushes. The dancer cannot drink the dance steps. The sketches of the figure artist, the words of the poet, the lyrics of the songwriter, none protect from the winter wind. Yet the sculptor must sculpt, the painter must paint, and the author must pen the prose… even to the detriment of health and home, even if they are literally starving. Every human being must breathe. Every true artist must create, no matter what.
Some have considered themselves failures while they were still alive, suffering from depression, sometimes even passing from suicide, often achieving recognition only after they died. Yet they produced great art, summoning it up from somewhere deep within, imbuing it with value, even if no-one else wanted it or appreciated it. It defined them, completed them, made them feel whole. Artists have to create to stay alive inside of their souls, even if they sell not a whit.
I have discovered the same paradox “upon the dais.” The complete exposure when posing in the nude for figure artists creates a profound vulnerability. Yet when I overcome my apprehension and come out of that robe, the reward in self-confidence is amazing! And I love seeing myself in the art… in the lines and shapes and shadows that are uniquely mine, while at the same time uniquely the individual artist’s. When I look at myself through their eyes, I like me!
I believe this is true of all individual artists. We see ourselves through our art, understand ourselves through our art, and define ourselves through our art. Often, it is the medicine of our healing, more important than breath. I have to pose now. It is as important to me as food or clothing or shelter. My craft of figure modeling, my art, has become my life.
We are defined by art as groups as well… by our clothing, food, architecture, music, dance, theatre, and most importantly, by the art we surround ourselves with inside our homes and work places. We need our artists and their art! Their simple ‘believe in self’ combined with the drive to create is, in essence, the solid foundation of all culture.
This thing that is supposedly nonessential—art—becomes the very thing that defines our world the most. We need to recognize its great value. Our local artists deserve everyone’s support and encouragement. There may be starving members right in our midst, struggling to believe that what they create has value. We must never think of them or their art as unimportant, as non-essential.
Kenosha can be an arts destination… “If we build it they will come.” They will watch our plays, eat our food, listen to our music and poetry and song. They will come to our galleries and buy our wares. If we believe in ourselves as artists and believe in ourselves as an artistic community, we will be the poster child for the paradox… our art will be essential.