Retraction Redaction Redux

Making Art that No One Sees.

Over at Loudenmouth, the new blog by Jennifer Louden, The Comfort Queen, she's talking about her new passion of making art and the feeling that her art needs to be seen by someone. Does it make art sweeter if you  have an audience? I know it does for me, I like that little extra zing that comes when someone tells me that they love what I wrote/drew/collaged, etc.

Artists are generally very insecure souls. We never have enough feedback on our work - positive feedback, that is. It's like we are learning to walk again each time we make something and we need to hear someone saying, "come on baby, come on, one more step, you can do it", and of course, we love to see a pair of outstretched arms to run into, preferably those of our mother who will love us unconditionally despite whatever dreck we are producing in our studio.   

In general, artists tend to fall somewhere on the low side of the maturity scale when it comes to emotional stability. I know. I am one. The swing factor on moods is considerable, generally regulated by the number of people bursting into spontaneous applause when they see your work, or, the lack thereof.

It's hard to be an artist in the 21st century. There's not many people running around clapping you on the back for that great drawing you did of the polar bear at the Bronx Zoo. And generally, there are few readers for the quatrain to which you devoted a better part of the weekend writing. The invisibility factor feeds the swing factor and the clash produces a great, combustible fire of egotism going up in flames.

And that's when you turn to your significant other and say the words. What words? The very words designed to put the counseling back into your marriage. The words that make partners feet turn to ice and tongues swell to gargantuan proportions. The words that you desperately try to hold back saying, until you are blue in the face and feel ready to vomit. The words uttered by every artist at some point each day: "What do you think of this?"

Herein lies the problem: once the artist has uttered those small, banal words, seemingly casual, but oh, oh, so very important words, her entire identity, nay, her entire life now hangs in the balance as she awaits the reply to this wolf of a question clothed in sheep's clothing."What do you think of this?" What do you think of my art? What do you think of my creativity? What do you think of my devoting endless hours to this project? What do you think of my aspirations as an artist? What do you think of me calling myself an artist? What do you think of everything I've worked for my entire life that is represented in this 8" X 10" collage made on 300 lb. hot press watercolor paper that I have painted, layered, glazed, glued, adhered, wrote, stamped, drew, and embossed and poured my entire "oeuvre" into.

Do you think it is any good?

The poor, naive  significant other, spouse, boy/girlfriend, acquaintance,  - but never fellow artist! - the poor shmuck now has his Hobsonian choice: truth or beauty. Truth, yes, your mother taught you that honesty is the best policy. But beauty, ah, she lies between us like silk sheets and if the right response is uttered, those sheets will be pulled back to reveal all that is happy, good, and right in the world. Go for truth, and feel the howling winds lift those sheets back and reveal the naked underside of hell.

The worst part is - the shmuck doesn't even know there's a choice. He just knows that it doesn't look like the Mona Lisa, so he's not quite sure what to make of it. Colors are pretty, but kind of loud and it  doesn't go with anything in the house. Not sure what that stuff is hanging off of it, and those shiny things stuck on it - are those refrigerator magnets? The sketch, well, it doesn't look like anyone he's ever seen. But before he's even processed that much of an critique, his super ego shuts him right up and he thinks he is safe by doing  what anyone on the edge of a cliff  would do. He opens his mouth. He moves his tongue, he exhales through the vocal cords and he says those dreaded, dangerous, war-mongering words:

"It's very nice."


Very nice.

Very Friggin' Nice.

Daisies are nice. Puppies are nice. Babies are nice.

Art is NOT NICE.

A roar erupts from the artist. The piece is thrown to the ground. Doors slam. People retreat. A chill descends. Sounds can be heard of marriage licenses being ripped, art supplies trashed, and weeping, copious weeping. Journals are slammed onto desks and pens are heard furiously scribbling across page after page while the artist is muttering, nicenicenice, until the poor significant other is reduced to banging on the door and apologizing - for what he knows not. He scurries to rescue the piece from the garbage can, props it up on the TV, finds a frame from an old class picture and sticks it in.

Honey, honey, come out now, stop crying. I like it. I really like it.

The sniffling stops. A door cracks open. A face, blotchy and red pokes out.

"You do?"

"Yes, I do. It's very, very uh............pretty."


They'll be no sleep,  on silk sheets or otherwise, in the house tonight.