How artists will one day save the world

Over the last two months, I’ve had a chance to work with writers of all different stripes. I’ve re-discovered, in many different ways, how quirky and gracious and stubborn and imaginative and devastatingly fabulous we all are. And I love that about us. I love being part of that. I love being able to call myself one of them.

Against that background, I saw a movie last week called Finding Vivian Maier that made me think a lot about why people choose to be artists in the first place, whether in the form of a writer or something else. And what I’ve come up with is this: we are screwed up beings, artists. There is something in us that refuses to walk to the drum beat of this world. There is something in us that needs to get out.

I’ve heard this sentiment before, and I’ve heard it in a myriad of ways. I’ve heard that only writers would be crazy enough to actually do what we do. And we all laugh at that, because it’s funny. But maybe it’s funny because it’s also true.

This isn’t to say that we need to refer directly to that one thing we perceive as “wrong” in the world (if we indeed do perceive something as irrevocably wrong) in order to effectively deal with it, or let it out as it were. But the marvellous thing about being artists is that we can do a little dance around the thing that might be wrong. We can poke fun at it, merely observe it, or even capture it in all its glory and/or dispair (or both).

The point is that we can, and that we do.

Art is the point. It’s the point at which we choose to let that little niggling feeling that something may be wrong, without necessarily knowing what it is, out of ourselves. It’s the point at which that something, that it, becomes larger than our actual selves can be. It’s the point at which that something becomes the point.

The point behind our art. (I might be a bit dramatic in saying the point to living, but it’s something like that. That vital, anyway.) The point that can’t be ignored, least of all by the artist themselves. Whether others are invited to pay attention to that point is all a part of the artist’s journey.

The crux of the film Vivian Maier lies in the fact that her work was discovered after her death. And not just a little bit of work, but what can only be described as boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of her life’s work. The unanswered question remains whether she wanted her life’s work discovered; whether she would love the attention her work has received, or abhor it.

But that’s not really the point. Not to me, anyway.

The point was that she did it in the first place. Something compelled her, and whatever that compulsion was, only she will know.

That’s the beauty of being an artist.

 

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