Thursday, May 23, 2013
Eleven years ago I graduated from School of Visual Arts. Our commencement speaker was Ronan Tynan, an Irish tenor with an uplifting life story, but I admit I don't remember anything of the speech beyond urging us to follow our visions and dreams, followed by a rousing rendition of "Summertime" (..and the living is easy, etc). I felt proud of my achievement, especially after clawing my way through continuous financial and emotional roadblocks to acquire those skills and experiences. I was even more moved and cheered by having my entire, loving family meet me in the city to celebrate at the Boathouse in Central Park.
At that point I was quite ready to move on- still loving the city and wanting to make art, but not even sure if I would be making art for a 'living', or incorporate it into something else. I did some creative-ish jobs that I mostly enjoyed (another story), during which my own production slowed. Eventually I painted more consistently and I make about half my modest living from my art. More than some people manage, less than others. It's a struggle sometimes, and yet I feel happy, energized and close to my truest self when I am painting or gathering inspiration.
I found excerpts from Greil Marcus's commencement speech this year at SVA:
"...What art does — maybe what it does most completely — is tell us, make us feel that what we think we know, we don’t. There are whole worlds around us that we’ve never glimpsed.
I think we all have this little theatre on top of our shoulders, where the past and the present and our aspirations and our memories are simply and inevitably mixed. What makes each one of us unique, is the potency of the individual mix.
...That’s what art does, that’s what it’s for — to show you that what you think can be erased, cancelled, turned on its head by something you weren’t prepared for — by a work, by a play, a song, a scene in a movie, a painting, a collage, a cartoon, an advertisement — something that has the power that reaches you far more strongly than it reaches the person standing next to you, or even anyone else on Earth — art that produces a revelation that you might not be able to explain or pass on to anyone else, a revolution that you desperately try to share in your own words, in your own work.
"…What’s the impulse behind art? It’s saying in whatever language is the language of your work, “If I could move you as much as it moved me … if I can move anyone a tenth as much as that moved me, if I can spark the same sense of mystery and awe and surprise as that sparked in me, well that’s why I do what I do.”