So today I was reading Twitter and someone I don’t know posted some poetry from a relative who had recently died of Covid. And I really liked it. I mention this because it’s rare for me to like poetry. It’s not that I don’t like the concept, it’s more to do with the fact that I perceive poetry to be incredibly difficult to do well and I’ve never really thought all that many people actually do it well. I sure as hell can’t do it well! So the fact is, there’s not that much poetry I like. That’s not to say there isn’t some poetry I like, although I don’t have any Poet heroes. But I really like some of the poetry my wife has written and I have a visual artist friend in the U.K. who writes some really good stuff. In fact I liked it so much I asked if I could put some of it to music, which he has allowed me to do. And I’m proud of some of those songs. It’s also been great for me, because I have written some funny, controversial, maybe even creepy lyrics (see standickie.com), but never anything profound. And I’m pretty sure that ain’t gonna happen.
This got me thinking about my attitude toward art in general. My bad attitude. I feel like I have been overly critical about the things people create. When I was younger I spent a stupid amount of time trying to convince people that the stuff I like is somehow the right stuff to like. Ugh! I wish I could have all those conversations back. Everyone else seemed to know that there is no “right stuff to like.” You just like what you like. And if you make something, even better! Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow…Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” And that’s the kicker right there. It’s obvious to say this but if you create something it will be a thing that nobody else would have or even could have made. That’s kind of amazing when you think about it.
Even since I’ve shifted from cartoonist/musician to “fine artist” or even Contemporary Artist/Musician, I’ve been pretty critical of other people’s work. A lot of contemporary art is, frankly boring to me. But who cares? Someone out there loves it, so maybe I just need to sit with it longer and ponder why the person made it. Maybe speculate about why they think it’s interesting or why others do. It can’t hurt to try!
So nowadays when I look at art, and I’m using the term broadly to include everything from Hallmark Christmas cards and movies to fine art to TV and popular music, I remind myself that someone created it. Even if it was created by committee for the soul purpose of making money, someone out there loves it, so there is value in it. So if I have a New Year’s resolution, it’s to continue to look at art that way. I suppose if I were to become an art critic I would have to judge the work, but I’m not going to do that. There is still an outside chance that I will one day teach art (though that’s not really a goal) and if that happens I might have to mark it and I really don’t want to, because, who the hell am I to judge?
So in the new year, I will continue to make stuff. Stuff that did not exist before I made it. And I will try to be generous with the work of others. I’m not saying I will like it all, but who cares if I like it? And who knows, maybe I’ll even write some poetry! Nah… it would not be good. But that’s okay though! Hmm, we’ll see. Have a great Holiday, loyal reader(s)! Here is my Holiday painting for this year. It didn’t exist before I painted it. Consider it my virtual holiday card to you!