I once had a landlord named Art. We didn’t always get along. However, this article is not about him. It’s about the much more obvious topic, the creative arts.
As tends to be my norm here, I’m going to make a broad statement to begin and then spend most of the rest of the time noting how it’s not actually all that true…even if I tend to believe the broad statement.
Art is a thankless endeavor.
Like I said, I tend to believe that’s true. If you’re creating, truly creating, you’re pouring your heart and soul into something unique, something which is a physical manifestation of your soul. And just like you thought in high school, not everyone is going to ‘get’ you.
Because Art is subjective. It means something different to everyone. Just like everyone sees you a little bit different from everyone else, and everyone definitely sees you quite a lot different than you see yourself, Art just so happens to be something where what other people see is not the same as what you see, or what you intended.
As such, it’s really easy to believe, right off the bat, that even those who may appreciate your Art, just really aren’t appreciating it ‘correctly’.
Of course, we all know that there is no real true ‘correct’ way to appreciate any piece of Art (even if your high school Art Appreciation teacher may have told you differently…or literature teacher…or music teacher…). Because, again, Art is subjective.
Although I know most of you know what I’m getting at here, I’m going to use an example, just because I happen to have one immediately at the ready. Pixar has become amazing effective at the emotional pull. It seems nearly everyone of of their recent movies have had those moments where even the most unaffected of us find it difficult to not have to wipe away a little bit of ocular lubrication.
For my wife (and…you know, not me, not at all, because I don’t actually suffer from tearing up at anything ever), there is no moment in cinematic history where this is more true than the opening sequence for Up…specifically the montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together. Even more specifically, the moment where they appear to suffer a miscarriage.
This moment brings my wife back to the day we should have been celebrating one year of marital bliss, where we were told that the child we were expecting no longer had a heartbeat.
While I’m sure many who have not dealt with the heartbreak of a miscarriage can see the pain in that sequence, especially considering how quickly it comes after they are preparing a room for their child, this brief moment in the film actually takes my wife right back to that moment. It’s painful. Beautifully so, but painful nonetheless.
Because Art is subjective. We take it into ourselves, apply all of our personal experiences to it, and it comes out filtered. Different.
It’s why so many of these remakes and sequels struggle so much, because people are going into the film with previous knowledge and expectations. No matter how hard those writers, actors, directors, and every other single person in the film army may have worked to make something truly unique (although, you know, still a rehash of someone else’s hard work), we still go into it having our own thoughts, our own expectations, our own filters. It’s truly amazing that any of these are able to succeed, considering this. Except…of course…a part of these experiences brings back memories of our time enjoying the original movie.
A person who watches The Force Awakens without seeing any other Star Wars film is going to have a completely different experience than a person who has A New Hope memorized.
That’s a very detailed way of saying, no matter what you intend with your Art, it’s never going to be experienced the way you expect it to. One last example to get this all completely squared away. Imagine your most embarrassing moment. I’m sure you’ve thought that moment over and over again, you’ve considered all the different ways you could have acted differently. You’ve prepared, just in case it were to happen again. Looking back on yourself, you may be able to state that you were an absolute idiot. So is Art. It’s everyone being able to look in on you from the outside, with their own knowledge and experience, and being able to state that you are an idiot…or not.
When you decide to place yourself out there as an artist, you are putting a piece of yourself out in the world which can’t be changed. You may look back at it in future days and realize how dumb you were, but that’s you. A piece of you. A photograph of you.
But the best Art is the Art that doesn’t care. The Art that is willing to be wrong, that is willing to be embarrassing, that is willing to truly showcase the heart and soul of the Artist at that one specific point in time.
And this is where Art gets so damned troublesome. Because, even if you put all of your entire being into something, it doesn’t mean any single person will care. Because, even though Art is subjective, it’s also incredibly personal.
As an artist, I’m constantly amazed by my artistic friends and their abilities to show confidence amid their insecurities. To put themselves on display, naked and afraid, and be willing to do it more and more. I’ve been writing for 8 years now and I still find myself nervous to even tell anyone about it. Nervous that they won’t accept me for me.
Interestingly enough, it’s never the bad reviews that get me. I’m actually cool with them. Someone doesn’t ‘get’ my writing. I can live with that. But there’s still some piece of me, deep down, which fears being in that moment when I was young, where a classroom full of kids were pointing and laughing at me because I was too stupid to understand what was going on. Because I was naive. Because I just simply hadn’t had all the information.
But I hold on to that fear. Simply because I’m of the opinion that if your Art doesn’t scare you, you’re not doing it right. Sure, many of my stories may appear to be rather innocuous. But they’re all still a part of me. And sometimes, it’s just really damned hard to be proud of yourself, especially when you’re putting the deepest parts of yourself on display.
Luckily, very few people read anymore 🙂
So, for all you artists out there. Be proud. Strip yourself down to your birthday suit (the intention here is figurative, but, you know, to each his own) and show everyone who you truly are. Because that’s Art.