August 16, 2011 - Banking on the Possible

But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again . . .

- John Donne

Today's stumper: can "soul" be snuffed?  Or does it just go dormant from time to time?

For several months, I've been intensely thinking about what separates good artwork from good art work. The answer that keeps coming back -- from multple channels -- could be translated as "soul." Said otherwise, the artist has something to say, and that something is best -- perhaps exclusively -- capable of being visually expressed.

That's so very not a bad thing. Today I had the privilege of purchasing a painting that is technical, intense, and strong, yet utterly and deliciously reeking of soul. (I'll post the link here after it's safely delivered and enshrined upon my wall, because I love it that much.)

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of viewing artworks in fiber that also hummed and resonated with soul. The creator of those works doesn't put them out into the public. Although I think the public is missing out, I feel, again, privileged to have seen them.

I did not anticipate, though I should have anticipated, that seeking out such company, such influence, ultimately would cause/require my own strings to murmur again.

[N.B. - I had to shelve that line of pondering for the moment, because I suddenly found myself at a nexus of laundry buzzers, the Tinkerbell movie, a spouse home from work, a dog pawing at me for dinner, and a toddler needing a snack. So I wondered, "Am I fussing at myself for a lack of soul? Or could it be that I just can't hear the darned thing over the local daily ruckus?"]

When I was twenty-something-ish, a person very special to me returned to our hometown after a long absence. We met for a drink and awkwardly compared notes.

"So," he said, "you're not painting? Acting? Any of that now?"

I tossed my head with all the lovely arrogance of a Twenty-Something on the Fast Track to Somewhere and affirmed that indeed, I had put all such childish things behind me.

"No capes? No poet shirts? Not even . . . bows on your shoes?"

No, no such foolishness!, I averred, avowed, and affirmed. (I must have painfully convincing, because 15 years down the road I still remember -- and do not like the memory of -- the quiet look in his eyes at that moment.)

At that time, I had reasons to shove everything creative into a heavy strongbox and lock it up treble and toss the key far, far, far into deep thickety thickets. At that time, I was much-differently wired. At that time, I could see a clear path, but I didn't like the price tag. And they say that "if you have to ask, you can't afford it," right?

Fast-forward: I no longer believe that creativity equals craziness. This is certainly a frequent misconception of artistic twentysomethings: I forgive myself.

Further, I no longer believe that there's any particular merit to craziness-qua-craziness. It doesn't make you special. It just makes you crazy.

Further still, I believe that good art work -- three words, in italics -- comes from a serious place of study and discipline. There is always a place for the native genius, the brilliant naive, and suchlike, but the firm ground where I want to stand is underpinned with good skills and good training.

The question, then, is whether an artist/actress [turned] paralegal/lawyer [turned] artist again can complete that emotional triathlon with any tread left on the soul-tires.

I can recover the technical skills.  Some never went away, and some even have improved with age and patience. But can I do this kind of painting again?

I'm banking on the possible. I'll let you know.

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