I am often reminded of the day in college when I was talking with another student about what we each were studying. How blithely she remarked, that as an art student I must be having nothing but unrelieved fun with my studies. Little did she know that in order to counteract my lack of hand/eye coordination, I was taking three drawing classes a day and going home each night to cry myself to sleep after the failures of yet another day. I was well aware that my drawings, once pinned up on the critique board next to everyone else’s, were the worst in class. Only encouragements such as “There really isn’t any such thing as talent, only desire!” given by my teachers kept me going back for another round of personal torment and insecurity when the sun came up again. Ah, yes…what fun! But truly it was desire and the constant inner drive of what I have come to think of as the Muse that kept me on the path of art.
Since those days, how often have I continued to hear the echoes of that same opinion as I’ve struggled to continue working as an artist? I’ve read that the most difficult and important challenge an artist must meet is to continue making art in the face of all the disappointments, struggles, pain and fear that beset the calling of art. The insecurity of a calling that rarely pays, without an inordinate amount of non-related work on marketing, in a society that only seems to value making money, where landlords are quick to evict and clients question the price of the work that includes so much personal investment of time, emotion and commitment in the interest of getting a discount on the stated price. It is often a terrifying and brutal calling. In a social, political and financial climate where art is commodified, artists have to spend a great deal of their energy and creativity figuring out how to brand themselves and their work, as well as learn how to market it, when the real desire is to be in the studio giving form to intuition and inspiration to satisfy the Muse.
But despite such obstacles and challenges, there is always the calling of the Muse. There is the morning when one rises from sleep with a vision of ceramic vessels that won’t quiet until they have begun to take shape in the studio, even though sculpture has always held more interest than making bowels or vases. And even after the vessels have begun to become reality, their finished form continues to beckon during a day filled with the mundane considerations of daily life. They become an obsession underlined by the Muse’s promptings. When color begins to startle and demand attention, it is clear that the other dimension of the Muse is at work, making it imperative to return to palette and brush; canvas longing for form and color in paint. It is a state of being that rivals any other; the drive seems to emerge from some unknowable landscape and whisper unrelentingly until the vision materializes as the Muse seeks expression.
Sometimes the vision takes years to reach fruition, until the necessary skills or understanding have been attained, but once the process has begun it must be completed. In the last couple of years I finally finished four pieces that each took twenty years to complete. Each one sat in my consciousness and reminded me it had not reached its place of autonomy. I would take the individual pieces out of storage and look at them over and over without knowing how to proceed. It took that long for me to grow enough to understand how to bring each piece to its final form. Some work is so compelling that it is only days from idea to vision to a distinct object with its own life. When that happens the Muse seems to smile somewhere deep inside before calling for the next one. In that moment all the hardships of living in a world that does not fully comprehend what it means to be involved in the art process become meaningless.