Monday, July 12, 2010

Artistic Pessimism. . .


Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that many of the arts professionals that I end up having conversations with inevitably seem to go dark when it comes to the actual discussion of their work or the current state of their career. It didn’t seem to matter whether what branch of the arts they worked within. Painters, musicians, actors, dancers, producers – they all seemed to share a rather bleak outlook about, not necessarily  their work mind you, but the environment of the arts in general and how it seemed to be effecting them personally. Or, more true to the point, they just seemed to be focused on being unhappy. They were either unhappy with fellow artists, or galleries, or theatres, or management, or the public, ad infinitum.

I could feel the energy drain begin the moment the person with whom I was speaking took the conversation down that path. It was if my balloon of artistic verve had been pin- pricked throwing my mental warning siren switch to on like an unexpected fire alarm that jolts your being. 

Fortunately, as the unhappy artisan would drone on, I was able to create a mental wall so to speak that, while not literally blocking the words, did seem to filter out the dark vibe, patch the spot in the balloon, and most importantly, did fill my mind with steadfast knowledge that I was most decidedly not going to travel down that path with them. While they continued, rather than engage, encourage, and join rank with them, I just allowed them to speak. Quite frankly, I wasn’t really even registering their words most of the time. They seemed so cloaked with this pessimism that it must have seemed like the norm to them. Perhaps they had become so blinded by it, that they now felt that it was normal for artists to relate to each other through this heavy cloud of darkness.

What was also of interest, is that when I would attempt to pepper the conversation with bits of light that pointed out brighter aspects or alternatives – it would fall upon deaf ears. In fact, sometimes, the drone would continue as if I had said nothing at all and I could have been easily replaced with a cardboard cutout of myself.

My point to all of this is that I want the world to know that I quite simply don’t want to be engaged in this kind of conversation any longer. I’m not interested in artistic failures and bad experiences. I simply don’t want to hear about it and it is now my goal to take a firmer stand on this so don’t be surprised, art pessimists,  if you engage me in a dark and dour conversation when, not if mind you, I put a stop to it. Hopefully, you won’t be offended, and I’ll do my best to be kind. But, I want you to ask yourself before trying to pull me into your fog, is there really something that he can do to help this situation. If the answer is no, then find a new topic. If the answer is yes, then preface by saying so upfront. “I have this situation and I’m hoping that you may be able to help me.”

I think it is important for me to mention that one of the reasons that I feel so strongly about this is that I was once an art pessimist myself. Without going into details, I spent a year and a half working with an arts organization that created a dark monster within my artistic soul. Or, better yet, I should say that I allowed it to be created. Though I went in bright eyed, I unknowingly walked right into the middle of a thick fog of deceit, backstabbing, pessimism, doubt, lies, gossip, distrust and more. I made two major mistakes then. One was allowing myself to get caught up in the mire and the other was not walking away from it as soon as possible. I choose to ignore my warning signs with some misbegotten, and probably ego driven, idea that I could make everything right. Ultimately, that decision only led me deeper into the darkness.

When, thankfully, the time came that I was finally able to get my bearings straight and hack my way out of the muck, I felt as if it had been the worst professional artistic experience of my life, and, on a surface level it had been – hands down. But, now that my air has cleared and I am able to look at the fog from a distance, I know that it was actually one of the most profound artistic learning experiences of my life. I learned what not to do and what to avoid. I also learned that every day that I celebrate my own special and unique artistic gifts is in and of itself a wonderful treasure and that it is I alone who can control how much of it I wish to share. I don’t intend to cast my “pearls before swine” so to speak.

In closing, I want to state that I’m not saying that the art pessimist don’t have valid complaints. Perhaps they do and perhaps they do not. I just believe that there is a better way to deal with them. There is much validity to the line “If you want the things you see to change, change the way you see things”. Usually that involves taking a different course of action after your vision changes. It’s sometimes one of the most important actions an artist can take. If you find yourself being bogged down, you probably are. Rather than dwell deeper and deeper into it, you need to ask yourself why and what will you do to fix it. While the answers to those questions may not be easy, the results are wildly freeing.

1 comment:

Kim Klabe said...

I bet this happened last night....