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To Be An Artist

Brendan Davis

 written by Jesse Capellaro

written by Jesse Capellaro

I like what Vonnegut had to say about art: “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

 I wrote a poem while home for spring break. Even though I do truly admire the notion that one should be satisfied with any artistic creation one makes, I think that it’s understandable not to remain equally satisfied with all personal pieces of art. Obviously certain projects come out differently than others, and for various reasons are perceived as having more desirable features. I’m happy simply that I wrote and now have a poem to read and share, but the satisfaction that has resulted is certainly the most substantial I’ve ever felt upon writing one; There are obvious fundamental aspects (such as metaphor use, imagery, peculiar themes, and flow) that come together well, and it seems Cummings-esque (as in, EE Cummings, which I think is rad, and was somewhat deliberate). Certainly there is something special about it. What’s also special is how exactly it came into existence. 

A neat thing happened while writing, or perhaps I should say something neat happened, and I wrote. I’ll explain. See, it’s interesting, whenever I write academically I never listen to music. Whenever I’ve written poetically, I’ve never listened to music. For that matter, I do listen to music, but generally hardly ever when doing something else substantial (never when running, never when reading, hardly when walking to class, sometimes when cooking or eating, and sometimes when driving, but most of the time it’s while I’m… sitting with eyes closed, or lying in bed). But I did listen to music when I wrote this recent spring break poem. I don’t quite remember deciding to put in earbuds and choose a song, or even what songs exactly I listened to, but this might be immaterial. What’s important is what occurred during. It seems once I had melodies and harmonies, sweet rhythms -organized vibrations- infusing my head, I was inexplicably compelled to engage in quick, fluid writing whereby words, phrases streamed onto the page like I’ve never experienced before. Spontaneous poetic lines nicely consummated the very beginning of a piece I had started a few months prior. The music urged me, facilitated my creation, augmented my capacity… contributed to a particular process…

It’s said that Plato believed the artist to be a sort of vessel through which some higher form, or higher truth, is conveyed. He thought there was veracity to this idea because he (accurately) discerned the inability (or maybe, indifference?) of many artists to explain the meanings of their works, or their motivations to create. To Plato it seemed that creating art often does not involve much human reason, rather, at least more significantly, unexplainable inspiration. He recognized subsequently a lack of understanding and mastery of (eventual) artful products themselves on the part of (again, many, but of course not all) artists. A number of interesting points can follow from this insight: Perhaps many artists are not wholly responsible for their own work. This would mean that sometimes other people should have some, if not just as much, say in interpreting works and determining meaning as the artist herself. It too could be said that artists don’t even create their work, rather they discover it, or it discovers the world through them! Fantastical? Maybe. All of this might be regarded as iconoclastic also, but no doubt it is at least intriguing and, I think, moving.

So, because of my recent exciting and somewhat enigmatic artistic experience I take Plato’s theory a little more seriously. I understand it doesn’t exactly act in accordance with the idea I originally invoked: On Vonnegut’s view, the artist is most definitely a sensible, original creator who can personally find meaning, or empowerment, or inspiration through an individual enterprise. On Plato’s view, art itself is something of uncertain origin, conveyed through the artist, a kind of special, esoteric, not-completely-reasonable channel. I don’t see why one conception must totally negate the other however, and I think both, whether separate or together, can yield great inspiration; To be an artist could entail synthesizing ideas and producing tangible, auditory, or visual projects in unison with some kind of higher form that streams through bodies and minds to be heard, seen, felt.  

Let us not forget about the music involved in my recent writing experience that I touched on earlier! It is my inclination to put forth that music (another form of art, a sequence of correlated vibrations, a known powerful force that can affect conscious and unconscious physiology) can further this process, somehow, of an author as the artist vessel conveying some original input augmented by specialized notions represented by comprehensible sequences of letters, into this world for any mind to decipher, any mind to enjoy.

 It’s a bit of a mystical thought. 

- Jesse Capellaro