Got out of bed at 5 am on a Saturday to read more Herodotus. And what am I doing? Looking at art. For me, art is the best when it involves neat concepts, and this is a good one. My favorite is #33.
The philosopher Attalus used to say that it was more of a pleasure to make a friend than to have one, ‘in the same way as an artist derives more pleasure from painting than from having completed a picture.’ When his whole attention is absorbed in concentration on the work he is engaged on, a tremendous sense of satisfaction is created in him by his very absorption. There is never quite the same gratification after he has lifted his hand from the finished work. From then on what he is enjoying is the art’s end product, whereas it was the art itself that he enjoyed while he was actually painting. So with our children, their growing up brings wider fruits but their infancy was sweeter.
-Seneca, Letter IX
It was as if these artists were attempting to travel back in time, deconstructing their respective art forms along the way so that they may begin again, anew. -adj
As a lover of language, I appreciate Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” immensely. Currently, my favorite writer is John Updike, and Proulx’s prose is reminiscent of him. Her words are gritty, like grinding bits of sand between your teeth. She’s the kind of storyteller that can make you feel you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. “Brokeback Mountain” is not about being gay; rather, it is about the complexity of life and the indiscriminate nature of love.
I find the beauty in art in the ability to see the world through the eyes of another – even if only for a moment. More so, it is in the distinct realization that another may share the same perspective as me.
I’ll never forget the first time I experienced this; at seventeen, I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
“I told Dean that when I was a kid and rode in cars I used to imagine I held a big scythe in my hand and cut down all the trees and posts and even sliced every hill that zoomed past the window. ‘Yes! Yes!’ yelled Dean. ‘I used to do it too only different scythe – tell you why. Driving across the West with the long stretches my scythe had to be immeasurably longer and it had to curve over distant mountains, slicing off their tops, and reach another level to get at further mountains and at the same time clip off every post along the road, regular throbbing poles…’”
As a child I rode the bus for hours each weekday going back and forth to school. Leaning my forehead against the cold glass, I felt the vibrations from the pockmarked roads as I looked past my reflection to the desolate landscape outside. I too had a scythe. To find that such an intimate detail of my life – one that I had neither shared nor thought to share with anyone - now lay before me on the printed page was a formative event.
It’s that rare moment when you find a common thread of humanity between you – when you believe we’re all a part of the same cloth. This is a disappearing commodity in our modern, impersonal society, and it’s why the importance of art is to be underscored.
What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which might be for every mental worker, be he businessman or writer, like an appeasing influence, like a mental soother, something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.
Today, the library is my haven; though it occurs to me that I must look like a crazy woman to the few with whom I share this space, what with the talking to myself and waving my hands about in a somewhat desperate attempt to physically model what it is that I want to convey in words. It can be incredibly difficult to write four pages about a 10” x 16” watercolor landscape. Cut a lady some slack, people.