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Focus, Need, and expression

Carol wrote:

>   I came to understand that practicing artists are just like most
>   other people with one important difference--they are very focussed on
>   something that most people admire but are NOT focussed on.

I heartily concur up to this point.

>   ... That something
>   is a NEED to express from within.

I disagree about the need to EXPRESS from WITHIN, if I may shift the emphasis
a bit. I disagree for several reasons.

1. Anything one does ultimately is an expression of one's choices, one's
commitments, one's likes and dislikes.

2. People choose to do what they like (or think they need to do) and what
holds their attention. Some folks like and are deeply sustained by accounting,
some by writing computer programming code, some by farming, some by cooking in
a restaurant, some by being the mid-level administrative coordination in a
business. To the extent that these occupations feed and fulfill their
practitioners, we can say that algebra or horticulture or vacuuming
"expresses" the person. Carol implies this in the next part of her message.

>   ... Serious writers, poets, painters,
>   sculptors, weavers, potters, jewelers, or any other all share this
>   particular characteristic,  nurtured by actually doing the work as well as
>   possible in whatever way is open to them.  By doing and doing and doing.
>   Some never rise above artisanry, while others succeed in achieving some
>   work with a quality beyond "artisanship".

But essentially, I believe that talking about self-expression suffers from a
bit of grandiosity and special pleading. Our modern (American, and I suppose
western) culture exalts the freedom and self-rewarding work of the artist. We
call a lot of things creative and expressive that really aren't so, mostly in
order to add a little luster to our non-artistic endeavors.

I believe we leap over the true explanation of artistic work--that people who
do it do so because they like the kind of work it is--and embrace the
secondary quality--expressiveness--as the rationale for art work.

Michael Brady
16 Pedestal Rock Lane
Durham, NC 27712
Voice  919 471 9554    fax 919 962 2707
jbrady@email.unc.edu   http://www.unc.edu/~jbrady/index.html

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