I don’t play a musical instrument – I only wish I did! But I was recently at a local Café launch and was treated to a wealth of talent from volunteer locals whom I usually see in a suit, lining up for their morning coffees. What a revelation – behind many a grey exterior, there lurks a colourful character all trussed up and packaged for the corporate world!
A couple of things came from this experience. After the “Sigh! I wish I could play guitar or piano” moment (yet again) I revelled in the pure, unadulterated joy that music can bring. I’d forgotten what a very powerful medium live music and the joy of singing along (even badly!) can be…The memories it unearths -the make of the car that you had your first kiss in, because the band just played “Evie;” or the smell of the tanning lotion that springs to mind, the sound of the beach when “Seventeen” plays; or the look in the boy’s face who first played you a “Seals and Crofts” Album; or the din at the party where you first heard “Dark Side of the Moon”…and on and on it goes….)
And I was again struck, after chatting to the band members, how many similarities there are between the art and music worlds, and how easily I can relate to them. The hard slog and resistance to rejection, the need to express individuality, to communicate, to participate in the art form or almost “die”; and the understanding and agreement about what makes art (basically boiling down to: honing your skills, “finding your own voice”, taking a creative risk, and having enough confidence to believe in your chosen path) are common to both. .
I also discovered that, not only could the band members and neighbours who later entertained us in their home (clarinet, drums, grand piano) sing and/or play music, they were damn fine photographers, writers, actors etc. Obviously, artistic expression in most people does not limit itself to one form and exists in more places than is obvious to the naked eye when crusing the neighbourhood.
So now I have a few questions:
What makes one person pursue the artistic dream and another not?
How do artistic people cope with displaying only the alternate personality required by today’s corporate world?
Why doesn’t society value artistic expression enough to make a career in it an economic reality for many artistic people, especially since it spreads so much joy?
What can we, as artists and as consumers, do about harnessing the talent that lies unused out there?
Many visual artists say they do it because they couldn’t do anything else. Me?...I, have done a lot of other things and they were paid well and carried with them way more social kudos than I now have as an artist (particularly a female one…I often have to negate a presumption of having a high earning partner and too much time on my hands – all not true- to be taken seriously). But that all seemed too much like an act- too silly, really. It didn’t touch my core and eventually, I got tired of the game and decided to be myself.
What about you? Why do you do it (or not, as the case may be)? What sets you apart? Post your comment here.
Image: Free on Sunday -Tahiti" 2008, Oil on canvas, 122 x 152