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Close up view of a painting by Yayoi Kusama on view in Chelsea. This is a gentle reminder for me of the rhythm of the hand moving, the ritual of a mark being made

A preoccupying theme for me lately has been the compelling (and at times, compulsive) nature of art making as well as the spiritual (and yes, mystical) sense of one’s daily effort being a “chop wood, carry water” undertaking. From Adam Davidson‘s admonitions in yesterday’s post to the wisdom offered up by Tom Nozkowski (see below for a list of links to those posts), I have been in an ongoing engagement with these thoughts.

Other artists are also compelled by these issues, and a very good source for insights about an art worker’s daily life is my friend Lynette Haggard‘s blog. Over the last few years Lynette has published interviews with a wide variety of artists. And while her format is standardized, each interview reveals the very personal way in which each artist finds—and holds—her or his place.

This morning I reread a piece Lynette wrote about San Francisco-based artist Howard Hersh (who is also a friend.) This passage felt like worthy wisdom for my day:

Hersh considers it critical to his creative practice that he spends time in his studio daily. Whether or not he picks up a brush to paint, or a pan to pour—he spends time there, living with his work and the process of making his art. Following his passion, this time spent in the studio contributes to a lifestyle of total immersion. This habit supports Hersh’s ability to have strong vision and awareness as he works.

My experience has been similar. Something happens when you show up regularly. It isn’t about number of brush strokes achieved or works completed. It is about priming. And that priming is happening on several levels.

That commitment to showing up is part of cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien‘s Four Fold Way, a set of simple standards that apply to working in the studio as well as living one’s life:

1. Show up.
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning for you.
3. Speak your truth without blame or judgment.
4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

This is in keeping with the Zen koan I have quoted many times:
What do you do to achieve enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water.
What do you do after you achieve enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water.

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Links to recent posts that include worthwhile insights into art making of Tom Nozkowski:

Nozkowski: Working from a Feeling
Letter to a Young Artist
Energizing the Space
Sagacity

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The unstoppable nature of art making…from a recent installation in Chelsea

Adam Davidson‘s piece in the Sunday Times magazine, How the Art Market Thrives on Inequality, explores that rarefied world of art auctions, blue chip galleries, U.H.N.W.I’s (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals) and sky high prices. In a sentence: “The art market, in other words, is a proxy for the fate of the superrich themselves.”

Tracking that zone of activity is about as meaningful to me and the work I do each day as an update on the number of caviar eggs consumed in Monte Carlo. While Davidson’s piece includes some economic insights into this rarefied market—“Art is often valuable precisely because it isn’t a sensible way to make money”—my favorite paragraph came at the very end:

As I talked to art advisers and economists, I kept thinking of my childhood in Westbeth, a subsidized housing complex for artists in Greenwich Village. Our neighbors, painters and sculptors among them, were decidedly not rich. To them, the very idea that art should make someone wealthy was laughable, even offensive. It makes me happy to think that this world of art-as-investment is a minuscule fraction of the art world overall. Most people who create, trade and own art do it for a much simpler reason. They just like it.

And thank god they do.

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