Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Artist as Other

"If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth it's riches; for the creator there is no poverty and no indifferent place."

~Rainer Maria Rilke

In her most recent post, Jenna mentions that "You can have meaning without beauty..but beauty always speaks. It haunts and comforts.." It is a point I like, and one I can agree with. Beauty does speak, it triumphs, and this is the "ancient, communal role" (Kathleen Norris) of the artist - to delve deep into the experiences of his world and birth beauty, to "call forth" the riches of everyday. 

In so many ways, the role of the artist is similar to the role of the prophet, a "necessary other" existing and creating, not in "untrammeled freedom" but in an "exacting form of discipline" (Kathleen Norris) that submits the Artist to the demands of his vocation and demands from him not only talent, but devotion and commitment as well. It is a communal role, a social role - creating the "lie that tells the truth" (Picasso) and presenting the world as it really is, in all it's intimacy, passion, failure, and ultimate, glorious beauty. That is why, when the artist fails to call forth the riches of his world, when he calls his world poor, empty, and uninspiring, he fails to create art. I agree completely with Jenna that beauty can be found in the simple and humble aspects of everyday life, but it is the artist's ability to become intimate with these things, to nurture them into fruition that creates art - the process of "seeing, knowing again, and being welcomed" (Rilke).


  1. I thought you'd like the point about beauty speaking, and I knew you'd be able to expand upon it. :)

    Even though I've claimed that we are all artists, I do think there's a unique vocation to art. And I wholly agree that the vocational artist's task is to become intimate with the beauty of everyday life and to "call forth the riches of his world." Of course, that's a worthwhile pursuit for all of us, as it helps make us more human. But the vocational artist simply must, or his work will become destructive.

  2. I can see what you're saying, John Paul II says something similar in his Letter to Artists..something about how not all are artists, but all are called to live in pursuit of beauty in a different sense. I should try to find it and actually quote him properly. :)

    It was a great point, and a great way to end your post. I was grateful to have something to latch on to, especially as I really had no idea what to write on!