Sitting here with a blank screen looking at the stack of six wood blocks with a new arrangement of rocks balanced on top, enjoying the beauty of the finished wood. Thought popped up in mind that I put a lot of effort into those blocks of wood for nothing. The other side of my mind protested. Nothing? For not selling and getting my money back? Lord Have Mercy! It's one of those times I have to amend a thought, educate self about it. I did not give the blocks of wood three hours of sanding to sell them. I chose to do it because I wanted to see them smooth and polished, not to put a title and price tag on them. These are the two minds that kick-box in my head where making art objects is concerned. One mind is my self looking at it from aesthetic satisfaction the goal. The other mind is an authority figure from outside self saying: You're not doing it right. You need to make some money. I've given Mr Authority my ear because that's just how it is outside myself. I can't live entirely inside self. Don't even want to. Looking at the blocks of wood, mind got with self and said I'm tired of listening to Mr Authority, who is my own invention, anyway. He's a part of me. Alas, not that easy to turn off. I am so at odds with selling. This is what agents are good for. Also, I had something of an agent once who was selling things then told me to start painting pictures of "nigger kids playing around a schoolhouse, cause that's what people want." That was the end of our arrangement for me. I didn't even want to be associated with that kind of mind. It was the mind of authority from outside self about as extreme as it could be. It's right up there with the time I was asked to change a color in a painting to another color that will go with a couch and she'll buy it. The color stayed the same, she didn't buy it. I didn't want her having it after that experience.
Mind has struggled with self over the issue of art and money for so long I'm weary of it. Tolstoy dropped his copyright of his writings, gave them to the Russian people, could not take their money any more. His Mr Authority was his wife who unleashed hell on him for giving up his copyright. It was what the family lived on. Suddenly, they had appreciably less income. It drove Tolstoy nuts, the rage in his head between art and money. His last thing to do was to walk away from his Mr Authority. He walked to a train station and died in the station. He must have said to his self what I was saying to my self about the blocks, I'm of an age I don't have reason or justification to go on with the concern of trading art for money. I remember the old-time Regular baptist preachers, who believed their gift came from the Holy Spirit, said, "What's freely received must be freely given." They did not take money for their preaching. The meeting house was maintained by the members. Given that the Holy Spirit is within, I'm with them all the way. It was one of the first things I appreciated about them. I also appreciated that the meeting house had no steeple or cross. It was architecture so simple it looked Japanese. Wooden benches inside made by members of the church; trees cut, sawmilled, hand-sawed to needed dimensions and nailed together. A wood-burning stove in the middle of the room. I have the same feeling about the art spirit. It is a corruption of the spirit to bring money into it. Mr Authority says, you have to be practical, try to remember you live in this world and money is this world's blood flow. Been there done that. This thinking dampens my art spirit the same as a chamber of commerce meeting. Tolstoy made his decision to go with his spirit and walked away.
What do I do? Make things and put them in storage? Give them away? That's a seeming solution. The hitch in this thinking is few people appreciate something they get for free. It has no value if it didn't cost something. Back to money. Back to this world. I've never found a compromise in myself. It's always been like this. I look at the artists who sell for hundreds of thousands and think, How do you paint something knowing it is going to sell for some wildly unreasonable price, you'll get maybe a quarter of it and even that amount is radically unreasonable? It is ambition that took them there. I don't have that kind of ambition. The art market world is antithetical to my interest. It snuffs out my spirit. Since I don't have storage facilities and can't give things away, maybe I'll just think about it and read Henry Miller. I love about writing in this blog that it is not about money. If money were its purpose, I could not be so free. An editor would be in the picture. Some are good, most are terrible. The worst was when the editor at the local paper declared one of my sentences too long and put a period in the middle of it. It was a perfectly clear sentence he made into two meaningless sentences. When I brought this up to him, he told me I was strange. I thought: Me strange? Take a look in a mirror if you want to see what strange looks like. I said, "Remember this: I am the strangest individual you will ever know." Then it comes to I need to be paid to put up with somebody rewriting in my name.
I'm seeing Swedish actor Max von Sydow's character in Woody Allen's film, Hannah and Her Sisters, artist husband of one of Hannah's sisters, Barbara Hershey. He's a grumpy old philosopher artist who threw a fit because a new rich rock star wanted colors to go with the décor. Old man von Sydow went into a rant saying he didn't sell his paintings by the yard and refused to deal with the guy further. I had a good laugh at myself. Thank you, Woody Allen. I said that's what I've become, a grumpy old bastard. What can an artist be but eccentric? What artist would want not to be eccentric? Eccentric means being who you are in a world of people acting like they think they're supposed to act according to the unwritten code adhered to better than any written law. Fashion correctness is overseen the same as political correctness. You don't have a tattoo? How uncool is that? You don't know what a croissant is? You never heard of Harry Partch? I sometimes hope what I've learned in this lifetime will carry over into next. Then I wonder what I've learned in this lifetime worth carrying over. Maybe what I've learned only matters for this lifetime. That's good enough. At least I learned whatever it was for this one. I feel like learning about Leo Tolstoy's life and his writings has been beneficial to this lifetime. Why want it to be more than that? It's ok for it to be important in itself. It's ok for my art forms to be important in the doing and the satisfaction or dissatisfaction upon completing the project. I don't want them to be anything other than important in the doing. Like my friend, Caterpillar, who just now walked through on her way to the water bowl. She won't always be with me. I appreciate her all the more while she is.
by tj worthington