Art & Creativity: Thoughts for Posterity

07/15/2015 9:37 AM |


Since this is my final art feature to appear in the print format of The L Magazine, it might have provided me with a meaningful platform to discuss the recent past tense of art in our fine city, with a likely focus on Brooklyn. Or it might have been a good place to tease out some conjectural notions about what the more-or-less near future might hold for art making, art showing, art supporting—and sure, art writing—around these parts. But looking back or forward right now in such contexts, however potentially meaningful or important, can lead one to worry, at least a fair bit, about the present, as our town’s rampant march into unaffordability seems now to resound louder than ever. I’m not exactly convinced, to be sure, that this march will continue its allegedly inevitable, indefinite stomp. It could march right off a bridge, for instance. We have several truly handsome ones in our environs, after all, and the march’s crashing splash therefrom would likely be a welcome noise for the great majority of us who live and work here—and who would like to keep doing so without constantly crafting new methods of wriggling away, one lease at a time, from real estate’s omnivalent, at times truly arbitrary grip. For the record, I’m not saying that anyone should be drowned. It would be great, though, if the thunderous din of ‘development’ were at least drowned out for a while. I reckon plenty of you out there might echo such sentiments. 

At any rate, to avoid writing a final print piece full of potential woe, and to perhaps make this last installment particularly commemorative, I thought it might be apt to share some insights about the variably timeless aspects of art and creativity in general. And to do so, I thought it would be best to cull feedback from a broad range of more or less local artists and creatives.

And so, that’s exactly what follows. Contributions include personal observations as well as personally meaningful quotes, the sorts of inspirational notes and little reminders many of us might pin up on the walls of our studios or offices. We’ll now all have a great many new ones to add to those walls, or to at least bear in mind. You know, for posterity.

To start the series off, here’s one of my own:
Worrying about art is foolish. Art exists to help us ward off worries.

Jim Herbert:
“I will not reason or compare: my business is to create.” – William Blake

Jamie Maleszka:
“The hard stuff is where the oxygen is. Open. Breathe.” – Stephen Adly Guirgis

Chloë Bass:
“I never decided to do anything. I just sort of do things.” – Lucy Lippard

Meryl Meisler:
Everyone you meet is important. Editing takes time and distance.

Thomas Micchelli:
“What I am looking for is not happiness. I work solely because it is impossible for me to do anything else.” – Alberto Giacometti

Ben La Rocco:
“Without painted hunger you never become a true person.” – Dōgen

Sharon Butler:
Whatever an artist decides to do is what she should be doing.

Karen Schifano:
“Art is primarily about the development of consciousness, not the development of an object. The object is just a catalyst.” – Hudson

Deborah Brown:
“I placed a jar in Tennessee / And round it was, upon a hill. / It made the slovenly wilderness /  Surround that hill.” – From “Anecdote of the Jar,” Wallace Stevens

Charles Kessler:
Regarding a child who was better than he at drawing, Charles Garabedian said, “That’s okay, I’m getting better, and she’s getting worse.”

Sandy Waters:
An artist is someone with whom you create cinema syllabi and drink coffee.

Mark Krawczuk:
“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Mark Amiama:
“When in doubt, tell the truth.” – Mark Twain

Mila Dau:
“More than any lack of talent or ambition, it is the sincerity of my intentions that inhibits me.” – Paul Klee

Matt Freedman:
“Anything worth doing is worth doing superficially.” – Sidney Verba

Amanda Church:
“It’s as if each painting wondered, ‘What am I? Am I even art? O.K., but what does that mean?’” – Peter Schjeldahl on Albert Oehlen

John Avelluto:
“I quote only those I admire, because they managed to say what I wanted to say better than I could.” – Jean Baudrillard

Dena Shottenkirk:
Art can make what is not real reality. And, too, it cannot (finally) make what is not real reality.

Brent Owens:
“Lord, let me die with a hammer in my hand.” – From “I Dream a Highway,” Gillian Welch (inspired by “John Henry,” Anonymous)

Jenn Brehm:
“Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you.” – Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse

Elisabeth Condon:
“Art restimulates inspiration and awakens sensibilities. That’s the function of art.” – Agnes Martin

Seth Mulvey:
What do you really want to do? And why aren’t you doing it?

Jeff Feld:
Lost our lease, under new management, life should be meaningful, visit us on the web, thanks in advance!

Maria Petrovskaya:
Think about the viewer as much as you think about your interests.

Ben Pritchard:
“At a certain point I decided I didn’t want to take any shit!” – paraphrasing Iggy Pop

John H. Murray:
Pay attention, and follow what’s most fun to you, without plan or condition.

Anna Ortiz:
It doesn’t matter what you make, what matters is how you make it.

Richard Sigmund:
When the work reaches someone other than me, it becomes art. Otherwise it is just therapy.

Patricia Fabricant:
“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” – Twyla Tharp

Carol Diehl:
“Art is too serious to be taken seriously.” – Johannes S. Kjarval

Deborah Long:
My boss around 2009, after reading Audrey’s column in The L: “I do not want to see this trash in my office. Ever again.” My response: “But it’s just restaurants and art!”

Eileen Weitzman:
Life without art is like a ship without water.

Clarity Haynes:
“Aún aprendo.” (“I’m still learning.”) – Goya

Brian Wood:
Like never having painted before. Hopeless really. Then suddenly I’m in the work and all feelings/thoughts belong to the painting.

Vincent Romaniello:
“Creativity can only be anarchic, capitalist, Darwinian.” – Umberto Eco

“I wanna be more like the ocean, no talkin’, all action.” – Perry Farrell

Carl Gunhouse:
Very often the only reward for what we do is some thoughtful words. 

Liv Mette Larsen:
“Die Kunst ist schön, macht aber viel Arbeit.” (“Art is beautiful, but it takes hard work.”) – Karl Valentin

Elle Chyun:
Always be doing something. If not, do nothing, completely.

Kristen Jensen:
“My smile got tired, Henry.” – Random couple on the Lower East Side

Samuel T. Adams:
“Always keep in mind: ‘he who hits the bull’s eye, misses everything else.’” – Danilo Kiš

Mercer Wu:
“Don’t drink all the drinks just because they’re free!” – Greta Gerwig

Amanda Millet-Sorsa:
Give me life beyond the maze or it is I who will become the Minotaur.

Meg Lipke:
“Get out of the garden!” – Peter Acheson

Sean Alday:
Don’t forget how fun life can be. And drink water.

Sarah Riccio:
Passion is as important as craft, and craft is as important as passion; neither exists without empathy.

Katelynn Mills:
Painting is a direct extension of your soul. You have to feed your soul. Everything else is just stuff.

Cheon pyo Lee:
In bocca al lupo!

Larry Walczak:
If Brooklyn is the ‘cradle of creation’ … then it is the heartbeat of the NYC art community.

Matthew Crain:
“Look at it this way: use cleaning toilets to inspire you to get a teaching job you hate.” – Stolen from wife

Elizabeth Johnson:
It’s a cruel world out there … cold … inhospitable … full of people with tattoos.

Cathy Diamond: “The artist must work with the thought that the spectator can understand things half said, not completely described.” – Andre Masson

Marcy Rosenblat:
“You know what creating really is? To have the capacity to be embarrassed.” – Philip Guston quoting Franz Klein

Ashley Garrett:
“The arms of consciousness reach out and grope…. Tentacles, not wings, are Apollo’s natural members.” – Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov

Brooke Moyse:
Making art is like finding an immortal breath. Sometimes you don’t even notice it’s there, other times it feels life-threatening.

Sophia Chizuco:
I create art to engage viewers in all of their senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.

Anne Russinof:
“How can an artist not reflect the times?” – Nina Simone

Kurt Steger:
Art is life on steroids.

Bob Seng:
“Sometimes you’re the pigeon, sometimes you’re the statue. Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re windshield.” – No particular attribution

Michael Tcheyan:
Paul D’Agostino is a good man and knows his art.

Luisa Caldwell:
I told a random person I make art. His response: “Making art is always a good use of one’s time.”

Robert Walden:
“We’re going the wrong way, but we’re making good time.” – My grandfather, Edmund Walden

Ben Godward:
There is no good reason as to why not and lots of reasons why. So, WHY NOT?

A.L. McMichael:
Creative work takes as long as it takes.

Keith Schweitzer:
Don’t wait for it.

I’d like to close this out by qualifying, just a bit, the brief claim with which I opened the series: I’d make similar assertions about books, sports, music, people-watching, beaches, ripe pears, and a whole lot of other things that help ward off worries. Dandelions, black IPA’s, dew in the morning, the smell of ArtGum erasers. Anyway, that list would certainly go on for a quite a while. And you’ve already heard plenty from me—for now, at least.

Paul D’Agostino is @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Photograph at top by Paul D’Agostino.