Tuesday, April 20, 2004

On Being Odd

First, some anecdotes.

1. The father of my first girlfriend, when asked about me, replied: "I can't figure him out."
2. I entered a school-wide visual art competition in graduate school with a drawing I did the previous week. I came back to pick up the drawing and there were several people looking at it. I thought "Oh no, they are laughing at it...". I said something like, "Excuse me, that's mine," and hoping not to make eye contact. They replied, "We were just admiring it." I thought they were lying. I ended up winning second place.
3. My previous boss at my going-away lunch: "We are going to miss, your...oddness around here."

So where am I going with this? I'm not sure, but I think it is going to be about the joys and misfortunes of being the Philips screw in a flat head screwdriver world. In my drawing and painting I have developed a very personal style that I am positive that no one wants to look at. But it is the only style I want to do. When people ask me (when I let them know I draw and paint - usually I don't) what kind of work do I do, I hem and haw because there is nothing else out there to reference what I do. It is not any ism and it doesn't look like any stuff that any commonly known artist has done. I usually say something like "I work in a way that has grown from my figure drawing training into an abstract and linear space." That usually stops any more questions.

I have absolutely no desire to show my work in galleries or to sell it. Well, that presumes that I could sell it. Nobody in their right mind would buy my work, and I'm having a hard time identifying those not in the right mind with enough money to do it. Also there are two other reasons. One, I absolutely despise going out and selling myself in order to get into a gallery. I cannot network or talk to strangers. So I just won't. Two, what I do is so personal that I cannot sell them. Only carefully vetted people are even allowed to see my work. To sell a work and have some stock broker watch his plasma screen TV in the same room with a painting of mine fills me with nausea. Now, I know that people have responded favorably to my work - teachers, fellow artists, etc. but as the 2nd anecdote above shows, I have a hard time believing it.

So you see, I am odd. So why do I do make art? As I hope I demonstrated above, it is not a career or even a thing I do to "impress" people. I do it because there is no other state of being that is closer to heaven than that which occurs (sometimes) when I am drawing or painting. Oddly, the only other times that I felt like that in the past were when I was doing the high jump and when I was working on physics problems. It is a feeling of alertness and in-the-moment that really makes you glad to be alive. The book that best explains this is Flow. I gladly take being thought odd if it gives me the opportunity to have this flow of creativity.

I just read a review of a book The Midnight Disease. The book is about the possible neurological explanations behind the urge to write and it's "opposite" - writer's block. I am much less interested in the book than in Joseph Epstein's review. Mr. Epstein is a very good writer and has also taught a generation of writers. He knows what he is talking about when the topic is why writers write or don't write. In his view as opposed to the book's author, he posits that to write well one must jump off the one-dimensional, up-down diving board of determinism and plunge into the deep, dark, dangerous and exhilarating pool of free will. His review contains many sentences and ideas with with I totally agreed. In his short review he probably touches more of the truth of why creators create than does the whole book he is reviewing.


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