Sunday, May 6, 2007

Art 1, Honesty/Chastity/Fidelity 0

One of the Gentle Readers comments:

The writing that's coming from your experiences is excellent, but what of the costs? Is the thrill worth having to lie to your husband, betray his trust and potentially put his health at risk? Is the creative product worth choosing to be an untrustworthy person?

I don't characterize what I'm doing as a "thrill", which I think demeans the ability of art to transcend the raw materials. I'm not in this for (cheap) thrills. I sleep around because I love the people I'm with and I'm not inherently monogamous. I whore for money and, as I am now discovering, to 'only connect'.

On one hand, I'm not Picasso. On the other, no-one said to Pablo, "Hey, you're a lousy husband and father and kind of a man-slut, why don't you give up this art thing and focus on your home life for awhile?" I suspect that this is in part because I'm female, but much more because I write about sex, which we as a society feel is unworthy of risk-taking to obtain, even while almost every popular depiction of "good sex" involves wild passion, adultery, one-night stands, violating social mores, obtaining the unattainable through heroic acts, near-rape, etc.

Right now, right or wrong, I identify the life I am leading as the major source of my creative power. I can no more choose between my husband and my writing than I could choose a favorite child. The other analogy that occurs is that of being in the military - is it fundamentally irresponsible to risk one's life in Iraq if you have dependents who will be widowed and fatherless if anything happens to you? This analogy presupposes that one finds making art to be as important and vital as serving one's country. I do find it so.

I said in an earlier post that

I think it’s worthwhile to do reprehensible things for the sake of making art. That’s why art must be good, why we cannot settle for average in our work. It must be worthy of the time spent cheating on the spouse, avoiding the friends, half-heartedly grading the students’ papers, ignoring the crying child kicking at the locked door of the room of one’s own.


I'd rather make great art than a great person

The struggle now is whether I'd rather make great art than be a great person.

So far Art has Human Kindness cornered in the Girls' Room with a pack of Sharpies and it's not looking good.


Anonymous Girl On The Verge said...

"Right now, right or wrong, I identify the life I am leading as the major source of my creative power."

Which means, really, that your life and art are one. For those fated or doomed to art, we become our art as our art becomes us. A condition of existence, beyond the ethics and moralities that have others questioning why and how we do it, though really questioning how they could or might do it themselves, or if they're lucky, or unlucky, enough, questioning why they don't. Fuck if I know.

Anonymous said...

Be careful Anais, abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.

Anonymous said...

while it should be obvious that i understand the compulsion to push oneself to certain extremes of lifestyle for one's art, the devil's advocate in me can't help but be reminded of method acting. *grin*

really though, i feel that we artists set ourselves up for ultimate failure when we set self-destructive conditions for creating our art. yet there's a subtle and not-so-subtle social criteria which states that we are starving, addictive, flighty, unreliable, etc. there is a fine line between risk-taking and the honest thrill of living dangerously (like we do), and pushing oneself to unhealthy extremes which only serve to compound the potential for self-destruction.

mandy, you are an extremely good writer, and you always have been. i watch you hone your craft daily and am proud of what you evoke, of the artistry at your command. i admire you and my concern does not come from a sense of judgmentalism (!) but from just plain love. i understand that it's not only about boys, especially when we're discussing the meta-theory behind the impulse to action. but there are also deeper needs for a now-unnecessary validation at work and we both know it (you are not the little fat girl anymore, my heart. and you know just what i mean).

Anonymous said...

Where can we send donations for the privilege of reading your blog, and where can I apply for a crew job on Beautiiful Girl's boat?

I read and interview of a motorcycle racer once who said, "The only guys who know the line are the ones who have been over it." You can't talk about life unless you have experienced it. Keep living Mandy and keep making great art.


Z said...

Your art comes out of your experience of life, helped along with a hefty dollop of talent. Whether your life informs your art, or art allows you to make sense of life is irrelevant: it seems to be working out pretty well for you so far.

Tom Paine said...

Rilke left his wife and kids to write "The Duino Elegies" in a shack in the Swiss Alps (I know, I've been there). Was it worth it? How do we evaluate art and life? Painters make art collectors rich, writers MAY (if they're lucky) find an agent, or maybe not. Before you know it, the race is over and you don't get a chance to run it again.

A. Reader, Esq. said...

C'mon, admit it!

You're an anarchist. A subversive. The daily hum drum of life won't do. Routine is passe. You like living on the edge abit. No sitting on the sidelines for you. Push your limits.

You're one of "The Impressionists". Renoir. Monet. Manet. Degas. You create. You follow your own path. There is no competition among peers.

Watching Henry & June and then quoting lines from it won't do.

Besides. Where's the fun of living vicariously through others. Life is to be lived. Marriage. Ha! Marriage is an institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

You're an "only" with acquaintances along the way.

A. Reader, Esq.

Ps: Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.

Anonymous said...

"Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am searching for the marvelous."
Anais Nin

"always err on the side of 'wow'"

(more thoughts for my favorite naughty girl. my opinion shifts with the wind, or perhaps with the shifting ratio of my concern for you vs my appreciation for your audacity.)

Mandy said...

I really, really enjoy reading the debate among readers here - feel free not to agree with me, and if you feel there's bull, call me on it!

Steve - thank you for asking, I have just set up an Amazon thingy!

Emma Kelly said...

Hi Mandy,

I come to this debate late. Sorry for that.

As one who has variously been compelled by art and extreme behavior yet has lived to tell the tale, I'm not so sure how to weigh in on this.

Do we make train wrecks of our lives to fuel art or is that just an excuse to indulge ourselves rather than face our doubts and fears? Did van Gogh choose madness?

Do artists deliberately fuck their lives up in order to feed the creative beast...for subject matter. Is it a choice?

I don't know. On the one hand you have your Picassos and Gauguins, true. On the other hand, you have Matisse...even Shakespeare, in a way.

I just don't know. I've written my best when my life was dismal. Would I trade my current happiness for that pain again.

I was thinking recently about Kurt Cobain and how many young people today don't even know his name. More sad than that is that his daughter grows up without him.

Sorry for the ramble.

Mrs. Kelly's Playhouse

Mandy said...

Good questions. I would add - Do artists have lives that tend to be more screwed up because they inherently see things differently? The arrogance of assuming the ability to interpret the world for others may also be reflected in personal conduct...

Shakespeare might be a good model, though - after a fairly licentious life during which he abandoned his wife and family for years at a time, he did retire home to Stratford...

Monet had domestic bliss, but his wife forbade the use of models!