Spring 2005"The Search is what everyone would undertake if he were not stuck in the everydayness of his own life. To be aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair."
- Walker Percy
"They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."
- Andy Warhol
I remember, when I was 18 and living in Florence... the day before I left to return to America, I visited the Italian fresco painter Pietro Annigoni. He was very polite and spent the morning looking at my crude drawings and giving advice. In a heavy Italian accent he said, “Life is the greatest teacher". It sounded good but, I didn't know what he meant, I thought he meant that I should draw from life, from the live model. I took him literally for years, but, now, I am beginning to understand.
In the mid-80’s when my friend Vince left Philadelphia and moved to New York, I visited him at PS1. In the middle of his studio stood a tall ladder that he was using to work on a large canvas. I climbed to the top of a ladder, and I wrote a quote on a scrap of paper and left it there. It read, "Reputation increases, ability declines. When you stop trying to prove your genius, a part of your soul dies. But, talent too is a hiding place." -Nietzsche
I’ll admit to always wanting a certain level of acclaim. I feel that if there is quality in the work, it deserves to be appreciated and preserved. How do we balance ego and reality? How do we find the true solid ground on which to stand and depart from? As artists we are all grappling with our egos. It is a part of our jobs. How can we continue to make our work, year in and year out, and not heed what other people are saying about us? Andrew Wyeth says that he never lets anyone see anything that he’s working on, because “if they hate it, it’s a bad thing, and if they love it, it’s a bad thing”. How can we not get distracted by what others think or say about us? Michael Kimmelman, Peter Schjeldahl, and Roberta Smith, have all taken their turns punching holes in my big thin ego skin. I can now thank them, all. We have to have a healthy ego to keep on going. But how can we gauge whether or not we are being narcissistic, self absorbed, or egotistical? Andrew says, “An artist has to be ingrown”. I suppose that the term refers to inner growth, I believe what he is really talking about is being original and being truly ones self, having personal strength, ego strength, the ability to be objective, painfully honest and secure in ones thoughts and beliefs.
Recently, in an art magazine, I came across a quote from Lilly Wei, "Everyone knows the problems of fame or imagines he knows them if he happens not to be famous (not even for Andy Warhol's 15 minutes). But it is not always sour grapes to pity the famous; not all artists dream of stardust while high on angeldust. There are serious artists, highly respected, commanding even respectable prices, who are not "superstars" and are not interested in starring roles- beings who are dedicated and passionate about the quality of their work more than the quality of their lives, to whom a success d'estime is more important than a success de scandale. Their definition of what constitutes value is more varied and complex". We can wish hopelessly that people pay attention to our work, that things sell for hundreds of thousands, that we receive the level of fame we deserve, but in the end we all must realize that the only thing that matters is the Work. Does it change us, does it help us evolve, does it make any difference in the world? How deep our Art goes, is not in anyway related to how much the work goes for at auction, or what the New York Times writes about us. As Andrew says, “Your Art goes as deep as your Love goes.”
I am spending the Spring in Seattle. I don't know where the future will lead. But, I am painting and in good company.