Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Art and Dissatisfaction

Last week Peggy and I attended the inaugural evening for Atomic Circus hosted by Nomad/poet Marj Hahne and featuring Nomad/ writer BK Loren. The event was in the salon style and featured a writer, poet, dancer, musician and painter. The format included questions from Marj and answers from the artist panel. The audience was eager to join in (did I mention this was in Boulder?).

One woman described in some detail her experience performing a dance for the entertainment of folks in an assisted care facility. She described her amateur status, but reported that she had moved from a very genuine place, had taken a risk and was rewarded with a feeling of. The dancer on the panel made a comment that not only was that not an art form, but that the audience had never seen good dance. This prickly response led to some rather heated dialog.

So, what is the difference between an amateur and professional? Between art and Art? Anyone can experience the benefits of creation, and anyone can learn the basic skills of an art, but does that make one an artist?

The amateur dancer needed to feel like what she did (create movement and entertainment from a place that's genuine and risky) had value beyond the reward she received from her audience and self. The professional needed to have the world understand his sacrifice and practice that was invested to get to where he is in his art. The huge difference between the two is that the professional experienced his risk/reward long ago. However, there is a dissatisfaction (neutral use here) that accepts the risk/reward, but wants more. That leads to the practice that leads to a higher form.

Artists treat this dissatisfaction in two (or more) ways. The dissatisfaction can be a motivator to practice, hone skills, seek knowledge, seek mentors, explore and create. Or, it can cause a crippling self-criticism that serves no one well. The latter leads to devaluing on the part of the artists. It leads to the poverty mentality, because, “if I am so hopelessly displeased with my work, how can it possibly have value?”

There is probably more of a continuum. The middle path may be more one of creating a life. Where we do, what we gotta do, regardless of group-think. In that scenario both dancers are equally correct. The first one, however, will not be getting a call from Twyla Tharp.

What do you think?