Infectious Artistry: Keeping the Orifice Of Human Understanding From Puckering
Poverty tends to be a common affliction amongst the artistic of every medium. Edgar Allan Poe, Dickinson, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Dante Alighieri, H. P. Lovecraft, Oscar Wilde, and Herman Melville are all hailed as literary giants and all died virtually penniless. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Judie Garland, and Marvin Gaye created angelic music, yet all joined the heavenly choir broke. Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Monet could replicate nature's beauty with little more than paint and canvass, but they too entered the gates of heaven as destitute souls. Sometimes it is only after great artists die that publishers, music industry moguls, and gallery owners reveal the full brilliance of the deceased to the world. Ultimately, they gain great wealth from the works of those who can no longer benefit from monetary wealth. Can artists prosper alongside those who sell their work to the public? Of course. We see it with the likes of Frank McCourt, the Beatles, and Andy Warhol. My question is does it matter? Did the great artistic geniuses of the past create to fill their pockets? They did at least to a point because an artist's got to eat (I've heard they're always starving). Still, would they create even if there wasn't a penny to be had for their work? Duh. For those of a creative bent, withholding the art that rages within would be as impossible as holding in the Arby's mystery meat sandwich a person ate the day before. In short, the creative disciples of all mediums must create because if they don't the virulent infection of artistic expression stewing within the bowels of their souls can only be purged by projectile, explosive art. What matters is that the artist has what they need to continue to express their creativity. Unfortunately, except for a few lucky bastards, this often means working a nine to five. Working a steady gig insures that both the body of the artist and the body of the artists work remains healthy. Thankfully, the art virus will enter remission just long enough for the infected to make the return home from the daily work commute which insures that the infected can continue to spread .
When I was in high school, I had an AP English teacher who wrote great poetry. Looking back, my favorite poems that she shared had an almost spoken word feel. While most of her work was silky, delicate, and colored in shades of Whitman, I preferred when her verse took on a blatant, raw, and a caustic kind of honesty that scarred the listeners thoughts. Though brilliant (and I'm hoping published in poetry anthologies), Mrs. Fitzgerald also had bills to pay, therefore she taught and inspired a love for the word in others. Her husband, was an artist who taught art at Shasta College, a community college in Redding. He also did graphic art work on the side. I only saw a few pieces Mrs. F shared of Mr. F's work (he was eclectic and seemed to do a bit of everything), but to my novice artistic eye he was also very gifted. I always thought of the Fitzgerald's as old school hippies whose jobs allowed them to pursue their art while also keeping them fed, housed, and with enough cash to attend the occasional Grateful Dead show. Though I don't know for sure, it seems that the experiences, problems, and interactions the Fitzgerald's have in the work world may also have provided inspirational sustenance for their artistry. I can't say that Mrs. Fitzgerald's poems and short stories are well known or that Mr. Fitzgerald's pieces sell for six figures in a fine art galleries around the world. Of course, I think their work is worthy of such attention, but I don't think it's enjoyed this level of commercial notoriety. However, so long as the bills were paid, I believe the Fitzgerald's were content to be artistic typhoid Mary's spreading the artistic virus they carried through their work to whoever chose to be susceptible to the infection.
So, what about the great creators who created masterpieces while suffering in poverty? Would they have created even if they knew that their brilliance would go unnoticed until they slept eternally in their pauper's grave? I think they would have pursued art even if it meant living in the gutter. The desire to recreate, reinvent, and reexamine beauty with word, paint, stone, or melody is more visceral than the desire to become wealthy or even the hope to someday be dressed up as a German school boy and spanked with a rubber chicken by a 200 pound Polish lady body builder wearing a Swedish milkmaid costume. No, the desire to create art is an all consuming, virulent compulsion to bend the human condition over and repeatedly thrust new visions, textures, sounds, and ideas in until the orifice of understanding has expanded. Let publishers, art dealers, and the music industry reap the benefits of the dead. Those of us infected by the creativity virus must continue to hump the human senses sans lube because the orifice of human understanding is always in danger of puckering especially when it is cruelly exposed to the likes of the Harry Potter books, Thomas Kinkade paintings, and the sounds of Taylor Swift or Nickelback.
Can those who create poetry, literature, art, and music enjoy monetary success alongside the opportunistic executives who specialize in selling the various artistic mediums? Of course. However, the person infected with the artistry virus will create no matter what. The desire to be wealthy will always be secondary to the feral desire to produce beauty. So to those also infected with the virus of creativity, I say we much continue to go at human understanding doggy style, because if we don't I'm afraid Franklin Mint collectors plates, reality television, and (gag) country music will become the new, much diminished standard for what can be considered art.