Friday, April 9, 2010

Jackson Pollock and Self Doubt

Above is a one of the new works I started this week.  I started six small canvases.  I don't have a title yet, but hopefully I will have a title before I finish it.  I took the day off today to paint.  I designed two new paintings and started one of them with a bang.  I will have to snap a photo tomorrow.  I laid down a layer of varnish before taking a snap shot of it.  The piece is entitled Silence.  It depicts a awkward social moment.  I'm not sure what the story is between the three figures, but it's obvious that the the woman and one of the men aren't speaking to each other and are looking towards each other in a dubious manner.  The man standing in front of them is either a friend caught in the cross fire or is waiting to cross the street completely unaware of the discord itself or the reasons behind it.  If he's a stranger he's just wanting to clear out as quickly as possible, before the cold war becomes hot.

This week I watched a documentary on Jackson Pollock right after a episode of art:21.  What strikes me is the forces that tore Jackson apart are essentially the forces every creative deals with whether your a painter, sculptor, musician, writer, architect, engineer (yes, they're creative too!), scientist, inventor, etc...  The episode of art:21's interview with Barry McGee was telling of this.  In the interview Barry is very concerned when doing public showings that he will loose street credibility and might be seen as selling out.  He goes out and performs street work in order to feel balanced. That's not much different from Jackson Pollock feeling like a fake after the movie showing him in the studio was being filmed. I wish he could have known how fantastic it is for an artist 50 odd years latter to watch him work.  It might have been a bit of a dog and pony show, but it's fantastic footage to watch and full of insights.

I am always confronted with these internal questions of "what do I do next now that I just did this?", "Am I being true to myself and my art/purpose?", "Am I repeating myself?", "Am I washed up?", "Am I a cliche of myself?", "Playing it safe here?", "Did I push the envelope", and it just goes on and on.  In the documentary on Jackson Pollock, just like the ones on Curt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Jim Morrison and countless others they go on and on about their lack of self-esteem.  I think it's a bit unfair to these artists to simply say they had low self-esteems and these internal questions get the bum rap.  I feel that without these internal questions that you would actually fall prey to being guilty of what this internal line of dialog is suggesting.  If you are at yourself enough question your "authenticity" then chances are your still authentic or not so far gone that you can't return to being so.  When these questions are bouncing back and forth between your ears it's proof you still have a compass to guide you through.

Here's the catch 22 of it and why so many artists self destruct. I think that the artists who don't either have really great coping mechanisms or have super human self-esteems.  I don't know where I fall here, but I think my wife balances me out.  All I know is I deal with Jackson's demons, but I don't think I am a special case.  I think every artist out there deals with these demons as well if they're worth their salt.  I remember when I was in school I thought this inner critique and doubt would subside or vanish as I aged, but it's still there.  Only now my demons have more ammo with the passage of time and a history to pull facts and details from.  With that said though - alas they're really my friends clothed as demons that sit in the studio playing devils advocate.  They keep me from performing art for commercial reasons, keep me honest by preventing me from taking short cuts and being creatively lazy.  They keep me in line.  There are nights though I wish they'd ease up just a bit.