“In making art you declare what is important.”
David Bayles & Ted Orland
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Several years ago I attended a weeklong workshop at what is now known as the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine. I’ve mentioned before that the workshop I took and just visiting the towns of Rockport and Camden where worthwhile, but my real lasting memory of that trip was sitting at a table one meal with legendary photographers Arnold Newman and Mary Ellen Mary.
At that time the workshop also had a large library and a bookstore with tons of books on art, photography, and filmmaking. One of the books I purchased was Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland. It’s a thin book—just 122 pages—that I find myself drawn to from time to time.
“It’s apparent that as some level, all art is autobiographical. After all, your brush only paints a stoke in response to your gesture, your word processor only taps out a sentence in response to your keystrokes. As Tennessee Williams observed, even works of demonstrable fiction or fantasy remain emotionally autobiographical. John Szarkowskowski once curated a show at the Museum of Modern Art titled Mirrors and Windows. His premise was that some artists view the world as if looking through a window at things happening ‘out there’, while others view the world as if looking in a mirror at a world inside themselves. Either way, the autobiographical vantage point is implicit.
If art is about self, the widely accepted corollary is that making art is about self-expression. And it is—but that is not necessarily all it is. It may only be a passing feature of our times that validating the sense of who-you-are is held up as the major source of the need to make art. What gets lost in that interpretation is an older sense that art is something you do out in the world, or something you do about the world, or even something you do for the world. The need to make art may not stem solely from the need to express who you are, but from a need to complete a relationship with someone outside yourself. As a maker of art you are custodian of issues larger than self.”
David Bayles & Ted Orland
Art & Fear
Note: The above Van Gogh painting is one of his works from the 15 months he spent in Arles, France. The specific painting is of the inner court of the hospital in Arles where Van Gogh ( who struggled with metal illness) stayed for a time for after he was admitted after he cut his lower earlobe off in 1888. In 1999 I visited the hospital (now a cultural center) in Arles which looks very similar to painting. If you ever have a chance to go to Arles they have a wonderful walking tour that takes you to many of the sites “the redheaded madman” (as he was known to some of his neighbors) painted.