Art that digs deep

My very dear friend, I disagree. It is possible. And what's more, you owe it to your readers to try.

You must re-think and re-write your main character. He's not the artist you claim he is. He's neither alive enough nor human enough to be one, and unless he is, your novel will go right down the drain.

Oh yes, I know. You see the artist as a painfully divided person for whom art is a sanctuary in a world too complex or painful to understand or control. And you see the creation of art as the shaping of a more perfect, interesting, meaningful, and easily controlled world than the one he lives in every day.

It's understandable, given this perception, why you believe an artist's humanity and his art are at odds with one another. And why you insist an artist's ability to create art hinges directly on his ability to divert, control , or suppress his humanity.

It's understandable, but it doesn't reflect the facts. Art is not an escape - although it may begin as such - but a reconciliation. It's a bridge, a process of healing and unification, not a running off at a tangent from truth and reality. It is directed toward man, not away from him, and as such it must embrace the artist's humanity, not deny it.

I challenge you to name one artist of significance - be he painter, novelist, composer, poet, or whatever - whose work doesn't ultimately challenge us to become more ourselves. And whose contributions aren't as much human as formal. In fact, except for art's common humanity, how could we possibly respond in depth to the art of different or distant cultures? For all our love of formal perfection in art, it's the human sensibility within and behind even the most idealized of forms that gives it life and makes it valuable in our eyes.

Not many, however, have seen fit, or been in a position, to show us this. Our focus has always been on style, easy success . . . . And even our best teachers have had a difficult time implanting values in students determined to take the easy way.

Fortunately for us all, a few rare individuals have devoted their lives to the creation and support of art at its deepest and most humanly significant. They have instilled in others some of their own passionate love for both art and their fellow man. I have been blessed to have known three or four in my lifetime , and so have you. I suggest you remember them, and refashion your main character accordingly. If you don't, you might still have an interesting book, but you won't have a work of art.


Ted (Wolff)

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