Monday, March 28, 2011

A Follow-Up...

... on my "Waiting for Hockney" exchange with Cynda Valle. She wrote:

Dear Peter, thanks for all. As Glenn said when he read your reply: "There's alot of wisdom here". I have to agree that the art itself was pretty anti-climatic once we finally got to see it. But despite that (or because of it!), I think the man himself could represent all artists. Billy believes that what he thinks and feels is worthy of the world's attention. He than spends years developing the technical virtuosity to express it. Despite the result, this seems to me the art-making formula that all artists have in common; the "I" plus practice over time equals art. Of course nobody works in a vacuum; the surrounding culture and history provide the visual language that the artist uses. The way the art is received doesn't really fundamentally dampen our conviction that we have something to say. In fact if it is not well received we are part of a long tradition and can always comfort ourselves with the Van Gogh defense ("People will want my work after I die.") Or my personal favorite by Rollo May (should have it tattoed backwards on my forehead so I see it whenever I look in a mirror!): "Creative Courage is continuing despite your doubts, not quitting because of them." So even failure in the eyes of the world doesn't have to shake our conviction that we are worthy.

Billy also has in common with all artists a personal yardstick with which to measure success. For Billy it was Hockney (yeah, i agree a STRANGE personal yardstick), but all artists have one; be it gallery representation, big sales or a teaching gig. And finally Billy (like all the artists I know) has to get a day job. I was tickled that it was the same job that kept me afloat when I was his age (waiting tables!!!). So despite what you, me or Hockney's assistant thinks of his work, he, for me, represents "every-artist". To open up another can of worms I wanted to ask you what you thought of Hockney's comment to his assistant: "There's still that damn photograph". I thought it ironic that he validates the use of photography in Secret Knowledge, yet sees the photographic root of the drawing problematic???? And on a personal note: you have always been a compassionate advocate/ champion of artists and have NEVER been scornful or elitist ! I'm enjoying the dialogue ! Love, Cynda

(Whooops! I just reread your reply and I think you already answered my photography question; To assume the photograph is the ultimate arbiter of accuracy is a BIG mistake!)

To which I wrote back as follows:

Here's the thing, Cynda: suppose that what Billy thinks and feels--no matter his conviction or intention--is really NOT "worthy of the world's attention"? (Not everything is!) Suppose that his thinking/feeling never gets past the initial, trite cliche? Suppose he has never taken the trouble to deeply question what he thinks and feels, or to ask himself what lies beyond the surface of his assumptions? Suppose he has never really given a thought to the paths open to an artist in the current cultural reality, how an artist functions, what the task of the artist might be--other than to make a magnificent, photographically correct drawing?

For me, being an artist requires all this, and more. Making art is not an accomplishment, it's an investigation. It seems to me--sadly--that Billy discovers nothing in the course of his eight-year odyssey. This is why I question your notion that he "could represent all artists." I don't lack compassion for him as a human being. I just don't think he has yet discovered what it means to be an artist, and therefore can not "represent" them. A good and difficult discussion, though. Thanks for provoking it. Love, P

And Cynda, again:

I do see what you're saying: From my own kids I know a toddler is as excited about his first creation (poop in the potty) as he is of anything else... And just because HE's excited and passionate doesn't make it art. Yeah, I guess alot of art is "shit"!!!!!!!! I hope you have by now gotten the email i wrote you this morning (subject: writer's remorse). Just to reiterate ; What i will remember is not Billy's story, but your validation of my own working process..THANK YOU, it means alot to me. I will share our dialogue with my advanced painting students and tell them of your books; the topic being near and dear to the heart of every artist, and the next time i'm feeling discouraged i will take our your blog and reabsorb it, thanks again. Love Cynda

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