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Monday, May 4, 2009

3 am

Warning, not your average book review since I don't mean to review the God of Spring by Arabella Edge but rather draw parallels to artistic endeavors. There are spoilers. But there is also much more to the novel than I reveal.

At the anticlimactic conclusion, the artist Gericault lay counting the number of his works against the number of his days and found himself lacking:

"He would compose a terrible hymn on honor of destiny and anguish at leaving the world with so little done."

Yes I have a taste for morose prose, as evidenced by the pall in which I live for several days following. So again, much thanks to Brent Spiner for levity in turmoil. Upon finishing this book, I wondered, "Why do I torture myself?" I don't set out to do so. I wanted Edge to illuminate this gloomy but captivating painting that has haunted me since art history class. I wanted to have a better light shed on the creative process, not necessarily to measure myself against, but to encourage process. While I should be sleeping I am plagued with contemplation.

I am connected to the people in this book, the painting and to my Twitter friends in such a way as to make the Medusa wreck a fitting emblem. First, to the Medusa survivors in Gericault's painting, then with Gericault's frustrated process and then with the majority of the persons I choose to follow on Twitter.

Fortunately the book jacket is the painting. No need to drag out all the art books even if I knew which box they were in. The odds are against these men. The story told in the book is bleak, the kind of thing around which today's activists would rally with a Hollywood star leading the charge. There actually [SPOILER ALERT!] was no reason for the tragedy. The turgid green ocean and the angry black predawn sky should have assailed each other off the African coast without witness of these hapless men. Yet, thrust into an angry world there were. And here they are forever reaching for something small and barely visible on the horizon... the faint white furled sails of hope.

What, in the face of certain and overwhelming defeat, makes us keep going? Why don't we give in, give up, give out? Why don't we submit to the end that Fate presents us?

Once he has his entire being focused on this tale, Gericault cannot rest until it is right. Edge illuminates the artists dark, garretted thoughts and confounding process of drafting a composition through its multiple incarnations. I've know his frustration. The elaborate process of culling the studio and supply houses for materials with which to begin, beginning, only to begin again. There is a perverse joy in being frustrated by your work, revulsion at the merest thought of performing for simpering patrons... the fear of triviality. In my instance, maybe I am incensed by triviality, having had the derisive "Art for art's sake" snorted at me during my formative years. Art to cheer the soul is one thing. Art that appeases vanity is another matter all together. Art that masks truth is abhorrent conspiracy. Edge only hints at Gericault other impetus toward art. He refuses to rely on the cheap and easy answer that, as a spoiled brat vivant, he lives to anger his dismissive father. Gericault must create. Sadly there is little explanation of this thing that plagues me as well. I fill in that blank with my own life's tale. So there is no real answer for that question.

Gericault hears the get a real job anthem his whole life and pursues a talent which he possesses in envious abundance. Indeed, kindred. And I think of those that I follow on Twitter, the reason that I even have a Twitter account. Creative people compose the majority of my Following list which begins with the Wheaton, progresses through the Next Generation alum, to my Stargate universe and into creative people that follow them, in turn being followed by them. The connection?

In the end, we Creatives are the Medusa survivors, grasping at our survival in the face of obvious and obscured dangers (anyone ever notice the shark(s) in the water? Our eyes are ever on the horizon where hope is real and attainable or another product of delirium. And we wait for that hope, no matter how small or fragile. As artists our hope is the thing with notoriety that perches in our bank accounts like the figmentary sails of the rescue ship Argus on the horizon.

I wanted to know I wasn't alone in my anxiety, self doubt, incongruous successes and vanity upon finding success. I wanted to know that it is okay if some brilliant piece of work released from y mind would litter the cosmos like a scrap of ephemera never destined for my larger work but collaged into an other's pastiche. At the end of this book 1819 and 2009 slammed together with this realization: we have to survive together, as artists, keeping hope alive not just for ourselves but because of what our struggles and victories tell successive generations. We have to survive together because there is no one but another artist on this raft who understands how treacherous the water, open sky and those that have already safely landed.

Gericault battled his instruments as Zoe battles with software and hardware compatibility. Wil battles myriad distraction to maintain focus, constant self doubt and the Frank Burns nattering of his internal critic as Gericault had. Gericault went through reams of sketches and detailed portraits that would never make the final cut similar to the wonderful snippets of commentary that pepper Dave Hewlett and Steve Parolini's tweets. And the rest of my Creatives just keep producing, editing and being creative.

We are connected across time in the process: musician, writer, painter, because there is some perverse imp within that demands we dance to a Muse's tune. Possessing everything, Gericault could only paint. Possessing nearly nothing, I can only really relish life behind a pen or a brush. There is a fatality in denying the gifts we are given. The soul languishes, throwing the physical body into a briny deep as uncertain as the anticipated Senegalese shore. Gericault may have had only five works to his credit, mourned his lack of production, but he had one thing which artists should see in his works and embody... hopeful tenacity. He was as much flotsam as the men on the raft where his father's opinion of art was concerned; the elusive Arguin Bank as easily attained as honors at the King's salon. Gericault kept going. Wil keeps going. Zoe keeps going. Dave keeps going. Marc, Steve, Jackie and Lily keep going as Brent goes... as we all must go... as our art must go. Boldly or not the point is to go.

In each work we bring to fruition, from a 140 character tweet, to a novel, painting, musical interlude or album, for profit or cheer, we let loose something in the world whose imprint we cannot begin to fathom. My goal is cheer... even if, in a moment, I am only the faintest glow of yellowy pink light.

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