As much as I love words and communicating, I have to admit, there’s more to life.
Why can’t things just be? Why can’t you just do something because it’s fun or it just feels good? You don’t have to explain anything to anyone if it doesn’t concern them. In the popular wisdom of the day: You are enough.
This especially holds true for art. Art can be many things. The most powerful art, in my opinion, is something that exists beyond words or rationality. However, since words and rationality are highly valued in our society, explainers of art, especially abstract art, are often at a loss for words or struggling for an acceptable logic.
A picture is worth a thousand words. But are a thousand words worth one picture?
I guess it depends on the words.
I’ve been displaying my art on this website since its inception and I intended it to be as much about my art as about my writing. But I must admit, for the most part, I’ve been focusing more on my writing than my art.
At the risk of over-explaining, I’ve been focusing more on writing because of its contrast as a medium to art. I am fascinated by literature’s constraints, its various limitations: grammatical rules, schemes and conventions. I love using them, experimenting with them, playing with them, and (sometimes) breaking them. I look forward to share more intense, longer literary works with you in the months and years to come.
That being said, there is so much art I’ve shared here that I’ve always wanted to talk about it! So here goes.
In the early 00’s I went to college intending to become a medical doctor. It was during an all-night biology cram session that I asked myself, why? Why wasn’t I doing what I actually loved to do instead? Instead of memorizing the life cycle of a tape worm, why wasn’t I painting or drawing to my heart’s content? Wasn’t it better to hone my natural skills and abilities rather than trying to fundamentally alter them?
So, I changed my course of studies. Over the next four years, I focused mainly on the Visual Arts. I was an eager and energetic art student. I spent hours every day practicing on different mediums and producing all kinds of art: charcoal drawings, paintings in acrylic and watercolor, sculpture, the list goes on.
In all honesty, my professors did not have high hopes for me, nothing about me in person is remarkable, and I was often ignored in the beginning. But I was used to this and actually learned to thrive with this invisibility. To me, it was like working safely hidden, in perfect stillness with zero expectations. They never saw it coming so to speak.
When I first caught their attention with my work, they thought it as a fluke. But the “flukes” kept coming. If you will grant me a bit of “showing-off”, it was an especially bright time in my life, though short-lived, I enjoyed being the art class “superstar”. I would start work on a drawing in the morning. Always, in the beginning no one thought much of it, but a few hours later the entire class would be flocking around me, gasping and wondering how I did it. My favorite art professor, a great mentor of mine, actually called me a “genius”.
That’s quite a bit of “showing off” isn’t it? How does one ever come down from that high?
The answer is painfully. The fall always comes after the pride. My art career was short-lived, I simply didn’t have the financial means to pursue it at the time. After I graduated, I had to work to pay my debts and support myself. It was working for corporations that I learned exactly how meaningless my art background was and how “odd” I was to certain people. Although I made friends with coworkers easily, the way I thought and spoke attracted ridicule. My art school star status was about as useful as an old, tattered magazine.
That’s when I began seeing things in terms of “worlds”. Instead of condemning one group in favor of another, I started looking at things within their own frame of reference. There is the art world. There is the business world. There is the numbers world. There is the literary world. They often meet, clash, and interact. One is not necessarily better than the other. There are many things in the corporate world that I think would much improve the art world, such as marketing, targeting your audience and the importance of focus and brevity in your statements. And all forms of business could do with a lot more imagination and creativity.
But by far the most important thing I learned is the importance of context. In one area, you may be a star, in another you may be a dunce. No matter what, don’t let successes or failures get to your head, don’t become too attached to them. Yesterday’s arrogance will be today’s regret. In the words of Paul Walker (I’m not above quoting movie stars!), “Remember that no matter how cool you think you may be, you’re not cool enough to look down on anyone…ever.”
Someone you underestimate can and will surprise you, even if that person is none other than yourself.
You may have noticed this is the picture in my gravatar profile as well. This picture is actually a self-portrait I did in pencil during my art school years. The reason why I chose this particular picture is because it’s not particularly attractive, I look androgynous, I think I look a bit like Oscar Wilde here! 🙂 But it’s closest to how I see myself! No other picture on camera or done by someone else has come close to that elusive inner sense of self.
Text and pictures by M.P. Baecker.