I think I am closer to understanding what it means to be an artist. To understand what I am. Most of my artist friends disagree with me on my definition, but many very successful artists have a similar understanding, so I feel emboldened to try it out. I first posted about this (part 1) in a previous blog entry.
James Baldwin writes perfectly about the artist (and so perfectly about almost everything. He is a great artist himself.),
"Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone."
"The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place."
An artist is someone who challenges our culture, who tests if our thinking is accurate, who pushes boundaries to see if they are correct, who tries out the untried, and then puts it out there for everyone who cares to see. To see.
An artist is not usually right. But they are right to explore.
Artists are needed. But we only want a few of them.
They do the uncomfortable, the embarrassing, they expose their, and your, inner thoughts and feelings. They confront fears. The artist is vulnerable and bold and scary and stupid and beautiful and ugly. The artist is these things for you. Even if you don't like it.
Artists are hard to ignore. They cause a reaction in you. You are stirred by what they do. You may hate them or love them but rarely have no opinion.
Artists are artists to "make the world a more human dwelling place." They challenge and push and create and risk themselves trying to make this all a little bit better.
Few artists are bold enough to claim they fulfill this definition fully. But many have tried and I am grateful for them.
I will say that I am trying. Trying to be vulnerable. Do the difficult. Expose who I am. Strive to explain what I see. What I have always seen. What I can't stop seeing. What I have tried to stop seeing! What haunts me. What makes me different, shy, and secretly proud of who I am.
I am an artist. Maybe a bad one. Maybe not. But it is who I have always been.
Now I will try to be a good one.