Thursday, April 7, 2016

What is it good for?

A college painting professor of mine was once talking about sometimes feeling a lack of meaning or purpose in being an artist. Coming from a very successful, passionate painter, this surprised me and apparently struck close to home, as I still remember his musings 15 years later.  I imagine that this is a common thought cycle for artists - is what we do extravagant, navel gazing, and at worst, useless? I admittedly sometimes find myself critical of my life's work - am I just creating more STUFF in a world where humans already create too much stuff? It is ironic to me that I am both a dedicated purger of personal belongings and a creator of things.

Since having a daughter in February, these thoughts have been creeping in a little more seriously. Now time spent in the studio means time away from my quickly growing and changing baby, so it better be worthwhile and meaningful and make her world better somehow.

In his discussion of purpose as an artist, my professor mentioned that his brother was an eye surgeon. He said that he looked at his brother's work, how his skills and actions directly improved his patients' lives, and was envious. Someone who could not see when he came into his office left with sight.

This morning though I woke up with that story in my head, and had this thought - if it is honorable to help someone see, if that gift changes their lives, then isn't it just as honorable to create beautiful things for people to use that gift for? What is full health and capacities of the senses for if not to enjoy the beauty in this world?

The photo above of Mairead at 7 weeks old depicts her turning her head to the left, her non-preferred side, to gaze up at a painting hanging over the bed. She loves to look at this painting, particularly the snow and dirt-striped hillside on the bottom left. As she looks, she gurgles and squeaks and flails her arms and legs in delight. And I think, if even just this little baby of mine gets so much pleasure from the images I paint, it is worthwhile work.