Art versus Stomach
Whether an artist will have enough means to buy the next meal, and subsequent meals, depends on how much editing and limitation of his artistry he is willing to accept. If your aim is to produce the greatest and most refined art you are capable of, then you cannot expect to capture a sufficient audience to meet your ego’s hopes for approval and enriching rewards, nor your metabolism’s need for its necessary nourishment. This is the eternal conflict between art and commerce, between fulfillment and popularity. Committed genius is more likely to die of an empty stomach, than a reliable hack is to want for a full belly. A happy artistic life is one that strikes a balance between the extremes of: an isolating commitment to the compulsion for creating excellence, versus the popular mediocrity of a comfortable prosperity.
28 January 2018
True. But there’s a very human mystery here. Even the purest (uncommercial) artist needs an audience. His work isn’t finished till others contemplate it. Then it’s changed, no longer his alone. The French thinker Maurice Blanchot has shed light on this process–although, I admit, at times his abstractions floor me.
I found W. Somerset Maugham’s novel “The Moon and Sixpence” to be very enlightening on this point. The ultimately pure artist can produce work simply to transform his ideas and visions from a purely imaginary state to being physically real, and then enjoy the ecstasy of being in the presence of that excellent reality, without any other audience. Maugham’s protagonist, Charles Strickland, is modeled on Paul Gauguin.
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