Sunday, July 06, 2008

Starving Artist

I wanted lessons in sustainability, so for teachers I turned to the Amish, people who have been able to live as their consciences dictate for hundreds of years, for the basic reason that they can live on nearly nothing.
This is also Thoreau's premise in Walden: how much of your life's blood does it cost to pay for that designer handbag, and are you going to have anything left to put in it, when you're finished paying for it?
So we are enslaved by vanity.
I was thrilled to finally visit PS 1 this week, where the spirit of all the punks from Gertrude Stein to Divine is alive and well and living in Long Island City. Everything we cared about, and the passionate way we felt about things like art and music, is intact! I was sitting there in the glamorous, minimal, modern (in a Euro way) cafe, thinking specifically of William S. Burroughs. Also Patti Smith: she said (in an interview in French Vogue, on the release of her compilation CD "12") they wore clothes from the Salvation Army because they had no choice, yet poor as they were, she was "Baudelaire to Robert's Cocteau."
These are people who adore beauty, but beauty is as beauty does. They couldn't buy beauty, they couldn't just put it on - I can't remember what they were wearing (except for Burroughs' ironic mesh fedora that probably cost $2 at Woolworth's); they made it, and it was their souls that shone out. Look at Patti Smith: she is a lighthouse.
They became beautiful through guts and action. I notice that this beauty doesn't pass away, but gains strength as time passes.
Once a fat old woman told me she couldn't be a poet because she had a taste for silk.
I know to which camp I would rather swear allegiance.
I had the fear of God hammered into me by the Horts, who live in a 20,000 square foot 2-bedroom in Tribeca, and whose major collection of contemporary art I got to tour this week. Michael Hort said the only way to transition from promising art student to successful professional artist is thrift. In Berlin, you can rent an apartment for $200 rather than $2000, so you can afford to take your time, take risks, find your soul.
I said, So suffering builds character?
He said, It builds better art.
That's why more great art comes out of Berlin than New York now. The key to good art is taking risks, growing, or "maturing," to use Hort's word. And you can't, or won't, do that if you're afraid you might not be able to make your rent. That's when you get stuck.
Eureka!, in Hort's opinion, is a product of hard work. And low overhead.


P.S. The title of this entry will link you to PS 1's website.

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