The Artist Knows

By Trina Otero

From Lillian Smith’s, The Journey:

Art, as is true of all man’s profound experiences, is not for art’s sake, nor for religion’s sake, nor for the sake of beauty nor for any ’cause.’ Art is for man’s sake. The artist creates what he creates for himself as a living part of mankind…because of a passionate need to bring forth the inviolate part of his deepest experience and fuse it with elements of both earth and human past until it suddenly has a life of its own.

And when he does this, other men call it theirs, also. The dialogue may rise and fall in cadence, now becoming a mighty chorus, in which the whole world seems to be participating, now only a whisper. But it never ceases. A time will come when it seems to rise again from the dead: that piece of sculpture, or an entire age of painting, or a book or poem-and once more, millions of men are talking with it, sharing their unborn dream with this ancient thing and taking from it what their dream needs to bring it alive.

And by the listening and the sharing we not only are enriched but we bestow wealth on our world. For we are “in dialogue,” we are forming a new quality of human relationship. In doing so, we are, as Henry Miller has said, “underwriting our age with our lives,” because we believe utterly in its power to transmute its terror and grief and sorrow and mistakes into a music which the future can claim as its own. And yet, how alone the artist feels in his ordeal…

But the artist is never alone. He has an intimate relationship with the wood he is carving, the paint and canvas, the words, the stone: these are making their demands and their plea and offering their gifts and he is answering and the dialogue sustains him-as do another man’s beliefs and memories and the knowledge that there are those who care.

The artist knows something else, wordless, oftentimes, but he knows it deep within him: that were it not for the struggle and the loneliness he undergoes in his search for integrity there would be no strength or beauty in his work. And though art is not for the sake of beauty, beauty must be there or the profound revelation the artist makes would be unbearable.

The artist in us knows, the poet in us knows: it is the mark not of ordeal but of mastered ordeal that gives a face, a life, a great event, or a great work of art its style. The wound is there, but the triumph also, the death and the birth, the pain and the deep satisfactions: it is all there in delicate equilibrium, speaking to us.

This excerpt was found at: New Paradigm Digest



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