Showing posts with label ambition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ambition. Show all posts

April 13, 2017

what does success mean to you?

I'm posting this on my birthday, in the hopes that this year will be more successful than the last....

IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs is a très interesting book of interviews. The founder of Design Sponge, Grace Bonney, asks this diverse group of inspiring women a series of questions describing their creative paths.

A book like this, with artists answering the same questions over and over, makes me imagine how I would answer the questions myself. It's only natural to make those comparisons. I won't bore you with the details, but what I want to talk about is the one question I was stuck on.  

What does success mean to you?
This is, of course, a completely subjective thing but don't you find the very notion of success a bit fleeting? It seems to change with the times, at least for me. When I was young I thought fame and fortune played a big part. Recognition, accolades, raising a family, being a good person. But any one of those things just by themselves doesn't really do it for me. I've thought about it a lot.

And then I read Ping Zhu's reply, that "when things are harmonious, even for a moment, I try to savor it." 

Paul Klee, New Harmony, 1936
That's it! That was the answer I was looking for. Success is not a concrete thing after all, it's a moment when everything is working together in perfect harmony. And if that's true, then there's the possibility for moments of great success every single day in everything we do!

I recently watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix. I can't say enough about this series, I absolutely love it. This one was about the Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwon.
Jeong Kwon used the word orchestra to illustrate the kind of unifying harmony where everything is working together. She was referring to nature and her place in it, but it's indicative of her all-inclusive philosophy about her food, her means of expressing her life, and her gratitude. Even more interesting was Ms. Kwon's notion that that very harmony was what she considered true freedom.

Hmmm.
I love this idea that maybe what success really means is true freedom. A freedom almost like a weightlessness, where all the elements are equally balanced, where nothing is too heavy or too light, nothing unnecessary or out of place, no interference, no mistakes. Even if it's just for a brief moment.

It's so simple isn't it? True freedom, true success, is the ability to get past our own selves, our own disappointments and desires. To not be burdened with expectations but to allow things to fall into place. I think the more we get away from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that life should wait for us, should adhere to our every want and whim, the closer we'll get to feeling at peace with ourselves and the things around us. Everything has a place and a purpose if we choose to see it that way. If we get out of our own way, perfect harmony can be happening all around us.

Henri Matisse, The Dessert: Harmony in Red, 1908









Success is harmony and harmony is freedom.

And there ends my sermon for the day! haha


June 6, 2016

Secrets of the Muse

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is such a good book. Even though I don't consider myself a writer per se, most of what he talks about could easily be applied to any artist of any discipline. He may have a whole chapter on vocabulary and grammar but it could just as well be about color, line and composition. There's so much to talk about with this book. His fascinating personal history, cool background information on some of his best novels and the Hollywood movies they turned into, the realities of being a working artist, the pragmatics of writing and persevering, etc. I've earmarked so many pages I will probably have to read the whole thing all over again.

Louise Bourgeois, The Insomnia Drawing no.14, 1995
One of the major things that struck me was the idea of a muse or an "ideal reader". It's been on my mind since page 215 which was like 2 months ago. King writes,
Someone- I can't remember who, for the life of me- once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, "I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?" For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha.
Gerhard Richter
The first thing I thought about when I read this was a blog post I wrote almost a year ago that started with that very person's name who said the thing about writing like you're writing to one person. I never published the post, ended up deleting the whole thing, and subsequently cannot remember who the person was either. crazy.

Anyway as soon as I read it it was everywhere. It's like every article I've read since then has some artist naming his/her spouse as their muse or "ideal reader", the person they show their work to first and whose opinion they most rely on. It's been an epiphany for me. It's one of those subconscious things that you're aware of without realizing you're aware of it. Like when you're stuck on a piece of artwork. You know something is wrong but you can't articulate it until someone else comes in and points it out. Then it's, oh my God of course, that's what I knew the whole time.

Cy Twombly
The epiphany is that I realized I do not have a muse, and what's worse, I think I need one... badly.

So what the heck is a muse anyway? King writes,
... she's the one I write for, the one I want to wow... when I write a scene that strikes me as funny... I am also imagining my Ideal Reader finding it funny... He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time... You'll find yourself bending the story even before Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence. I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working.
There are plenty of arguments about the role the audience or viewer plays in works of art. Some artists claim they don't care and only make the work for themselves. I have a hard time with that. My thought is that visual art is visual. It needs a pair of eyes on it to complete the whole process. King seems to agree, at least about writing, when he says, "if you really feel that way, why bother to publish at all?"

Louise Bourgeois
Since I believe the viewer is an important part of my  work, then it goes along that a muse might also be important.
It's nice to have someone to want to impress, and what artist can't use another pair of eyes? If not to lavish their opinionated bits on you then at least to point out the things you can't easily see by yourself. It's kind of like having an extra standard to hold the work up to. A criteria that's outside yourself. That's what makes it useful. Because as artists we are so absorbed in our own heavy heads, it's important to step away sometimes and see things from a different point of view.

So the big question is, do you believe in the muse. Is it important? Is it necessary? Do you have one? Do you need one like me, and if so, where do you find one??????????


December 21, 2015

Are You Ready

In wishing you all A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year
I will just say that I am very happy to be looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past, and I am t h r i l l e d to never have to write 2015 ever again. I'm definitely ready for a new year!

I just came across a statement written by Robert C. Morgan circa 1997, about a year or so after I took a memorable class with him at SVA. It oddly does not feel in any way dated by 18 years:

"In today's art world there is a certain price to be paid by any artist who chooses to follow an inner-directed position as opposed to the consensual signs of an external discourse. Most often, it is the latter option which has become symptomatic of the critical and curatorial establishment. In a highly pragmatic culture, fashion and science are still the ultimate models upon which success is measured and understood. These models are predictably mediated by public consensus- the harbinger of neutralized taste."

It makes me wonder if I should be down right grateful that the last five applications I submitted to show my work were all rejected. How does an artist know if their work is just plain awful or just way too interesting and idiosyncratic for the public's 'neutralized taste'?

New Year's Resolution #1: I am going to pretend to not care and keep working regardless.
New Year's Resolution #2: I will send out fifty submissions this year so at least the rejection percentages will be more balanced out.

Cheers everyone!






January 20, 2015

PASSION

painting by Cecily Brown
The word has been coming up quite a bit lately
as certain words have the habit of doing.


Whether it's for art or love or friendship or just living life, being passionate is one of those necessary human elements you can't get away from. Or is it?
Maybe passion is more of a human function we can't get away from? An element is an essential feature, a fundamental part of something, while function is more of a job, an occupation or mission. . .
big difference that starts with the C word:

Choice.


I wrote a poem once that ended with the line, "passion lies on the closet floor with the dirty laundry".
I know I didn't write that line about me because I'm not sure even the most enormous pile of dirty laundry- even if it covered the whole planet- should ever keep one's passion at bay.


If you're an artist you're passionate. The two go hand in hand. Can you think of one without the other?

painting by Cecily Brown

Yet when working in the studio reality becomes altered. It's a strange phenomenon. Passion becomes broken up into tiny molecules floating separately around the room that eventually start to mingle with other molecules of doubt and fear and frustration. I'm pretty sure it goes something like this: passion is that nature that has no mind, no logic, no thought. It is pure impetuous feeling and nothing else. But humans do not run on feeling and nothing else. Along comes thought and reason who like to hang around with fear and doubt. We are rolled up balls of contradictory rationalizations, organizing and picking things apart.

This is how I see myself and my artwork: Internal globs of being strewn around and fighting it out. But I am a creator and the beauty of all this is that I get to pick and choose, at least in the art studio. I can rearrange the order of things, clarify or cancel out. I can be reckless or steadfast, or what I usually am, a little of both.

I've spoken before about ambition, which has a lot to do with passion, and am always wondering the same thing, about whether or not it is a given or a choice. I still have no answer. I think we have all the control and none of it at the same time. At least in the studio these thoughts get played out in paint and line and form.  
Physical things that attempt to describe the invisible. That's what abstraction is at least. 

All I can tell you is that passion
is definitely not on the closet floor these days...

painting by Cecily Brown































December 3, 2013

GET HUNGRY!


You know how sometimes when you look at something or hear it over and over again it starts to take on a different meaning depending on what's going on in your life?

For a while now I've had this mantra in my head...

You know the slogan for the cooking channel on cable television, Stay Hungry?

S t a y   H u n g r y

Ambition is a funny thing.  I'm starting to think that it falls into the category of you either have it or you don't..

Last week my mother bought a piano down the same hallway of the American Ballet Theater where I met Mikhail Baryshnikov 25 years ago.


Mikhail Baryshnikov

Sometimes you bypass the most important moments of your life. because of fear or doubt or guilt. I wrote a not so good essay when I was 19 years old about a day my dream came true when I danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov. He was the director of ABT at the time I auditioned for their teen program. He just happened to take the class with us auditioners that day. the full class. opposite us at the barre. my idol in tights and leg warmers less than two yards away plieing and ronds de jambing along with us. Only a year before, I had made it into the prestigious high school of performing arts in NYC. What was wrong with me that I never actually attended that school?


I think about leaving NYC after I graduated the School of Visual Arts because my boyfriend at the time didn't stick around, or taking a teaching job instead of the uptown art gallery assistant job I already had... What if I had stuck around?

I was just randomly watching an old episode of Fame, thinking, was that really the school I could have gone to?

Some people are content to do nothing and some people just want what they want no matter what's standing in their way.

New York City is full of it. My current town has never heard of it.

 It's that driving force that puts a spell on everything you do and think.


What do you think, is ambition a necessary factor to success? Is it something you learn or are you born with it?


the poster that hung in my bedroom for years


August 12, 2013

What makes you think you're an artist?

Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein

Why is it that some people who create art consider themselves artists and some do not?

I've met some very talented artists who spend a good portion of their lives working on their art yet would never consider themselves artists. Before moving to this small town I'd never come across this. I can't quite figure it out. Where I'm from everyone thinks they're an artist even if they're not, and here it's the opposite.

I wonder if this is just my experience around here or if this is everywhere outside major cities in the country. I haven't lived in too many places but I can tell you that this particular town; half resort, half pineland, half fisherman's wharf, half blue collar boondocks, is a mystery to me.

Some of the greatest and coolest artists I've met here, I consider more dedicated and passionate about what they do than I am, however these same artists wouldn't dream of showing their artwork in my local art gallery.

David Hockney
David Hockney
Now that my gallery has closed, I see some of these artists coming out of the woodwork for some of the most trivial local art events. It makes me wonder. Besides being frustrated that my gallery wasn't able to completely connect with the community, why would so many sell themselves so short? Why is it okay to sell your artwork like a common vendor anywhere around town except at the actual art gallery?

There's one thing about graduating from art school; they never talk about interacting with other communities outside the insulated art world community. You learn one language and one standard of quality and communication. Once you move away you find that no one else has ever heard of this special language.

My question is, what makes someone consider themselves an artist?