Henry Miller on Art
Going away for a few days gave me the opportunity to read and I opened up Henry Miller's Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch and found thoughts on Art worth noting.
"The world presses down on all alike. Men are not suffering from the lack of good literature, good art, good theater, good music, but from that which has made it impossible for those to become manifest. In short, they are suffering from the fact art is not the primary, moving force in their lives, They are suffering from the act, repeated daily, of keeping up the pretense that they can go about their way, lead their lives, without art. They never dream -- or they behave as if they never realize -- that the reason why they feel sterile, frustrated and joyless is because art (and with it the artist) has been rules out of their lives. For every artist who has been assassinated thus (unwittingly?) thousands of ordinary citizens who might have known a normal joyous life, are condemned to lead the purgatorial existence"
What if it was the lack of art in our lives that was messing us up? What if it doesn't matter how good at it we are and that we just need to be doing art, or at least being a spectator of art to be content?
Miller states quite clearly that while he is a successful writer, he paints not because he is good at it, but because it makes him happy.
"And so, when I'm studying a postcard from Mecca, or one of Utrillo's suburban scenes, I say to myself, "one thing is as good as another." Am I happy? Does it make fun? I forget about the good life; I forget my duties and responsibilities. I even forget about the poison oak which is cropping up again. When I paint I feel good. And if it make me feel so good, the chances are it will make the other fellow feel good too. If it doesn't, I should worry....Now what were those pigments I meant to use when looking at the hills a while ago? Oh yes, yellow ochre, Indian yellow, brown-red, raw sienna and a dash of rose madder. Perhaps a touch of raw umber too. Good! It'll probably look like baby shit, but who cares? Moi, je suis l'ange de cocasse....And don't forget, I remind myself, when you mail that book to what's his name in Immensee-- or is it Helsingfors? -- don't forget to wrap it in a "failed" water color! Strange how people suddenly develop an appreciation for that which is tossed away!"
Everyone needs a distraction. We think that the Internet with its memes, fights, or Candy Crush are mindless distractions, but they do not put us in the state of contentment and it doesn't take us out of the modern world that is draining us.
Dear Reader, I know that you are reading this on the Internet. I come here to tell you to log off now and paint, draw, take photos, write, or make something with your hands. If you need inspiration, read a book, listen to music, go into the garden, or walk in nature.
Miller's words hit me because he is saying what I have been thinking for some time. He published these words in 1957, way before the Internet. What they had then was the dull, everyday grind and the dumb brutality of American life. Back then they needed art as we need it today. We got to stop with the excuses why we cannot do art or make art an integral part of our lives. We do not have to be good at doing art to do it and we certainly have no excuse for not supporting artists by going to an art show, see a play, listen to live music, go to a ballet or dance performance, or go see a film.
If you do art, do not fear failure. Miller has a great idea for your failed art: wrap gifts with it.
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D.K. Castellucci is an artist living in Marin County who works in oil and soft pastels, charcoal, gouache, and watercolors.