What a week of muse punking it has been! Having said a resounding “yes” to my artistic vocation (and continuing to do so), confirming events keep piling on. Everywhere I turn, it’s art and more art. That’s my world. Is it yours? No? Why not?
I mean, at least in my case, that it’s not just my day-to-day art practice that counts (though it is vital), but also keeping my identification with and relationships with other artists alive and kicking. I learned to be a student in a class with other students. I learned to be a worker by being a worker among workers. I learned to be a recovering alcoholic hanging out with other ex-drunks. I learned to be an artist in a group of artists. Solidarity is more than a slogan, comrades.
Caveat: too many of us (me for sure!) have been known to substitute drunken camaraderie for real artistic companionship. This is a dangerous trap! Visiting a friend’s painting studio and sitting in a chair while she works on a project—that counts.
Seeing a friend in a play counts. Going with a pal to a reading (or making a friend when you get there) counts. Joining a workshop. Reviewing a book. You can think of some more. Which is not to say you have to stay home from the party; just don’t replace the meal with the dessert.
This week, I visited artist and writer friends in Los Angeles, folk I haven’t seen in several years. One has started painting again after several years’ hiatus. He has completed eleven paintings in the past six weeks, planned several more, and is preparing a show. He turns 70 this weekend and feels reborn. Was I excited and inspired? You bet.
Another LA friend has recently completed his fourth (unpublished) novel. As a hobby, he has used crayon to create murals in the style of children’s drawings on all the walls of his rented apartment. Why? To inspire his 9-year-old in her artistic dreams. We ended our reunion with renewed enthusiasm. Of course we did.
At the Brentwood home of playwright Donald Freed I visited friends with whom I attended a beginning writer’s workshop nearly a decade ago. Ten years later they’re still meeting to discuss works in progress. For three days this week they presented their work to an invited audience and their passion for their work was inspiring. Donald will be 80 on his next birthday and most (but not all) of the readers and audience members were over 60. Some have been colleagues for 50 years! That’s community.
My point? Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
I want the reader to look in the mirror and ask hirself, “Am I sometimes using my ‘art’ as an excuse to be isolated, self-indulgent and/or misanthropic? Am I turning my nose up at community because I imagine myself to be too hip, slick and cool (as if community were never anything more than a bad karaoke experience or a night at the bowling alley)?”
Find a salon. Create one. Be sociable—follow what inspires you. If you do, your work will get done. If you aren’t working (yet), community may help get you there. The place to matriculate in life’s curriculum is not just the corner booth of a North Beach bar or your bedroom desk. Nothing wrong with either, but there’s more that is necessary. Find it and make it your own.
Speaking of community and finding yourself as an artist, this is something to attend that might inspire you.
If not now, when?
– Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian