When I read books and articles that include something about art--the story of an artist or an art thief, a report on the goings-on in the art world, a discussion about a material, color, or process--I jot down notes on what interests, intrigues, or informs me, and then move on. But in the novel I mentioned last time, The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, so many pages have remarks that are relevant to discussions about art that I'm going to refer to it once more.
In the previous post, I singled out the topic of deception. Since then, I have found myself reflecting on other subjects the author brings up through a variety of fictional individuals. I can't help but wonder what her personal thoughts are. Are these characters merely the vehicle for delivering her own ideas or is she using them simply to express the range of differing opinions?
In one section, the protagonist's daughter, Maisie Lord, recalls her father's relationship to art. Before he died, he was a highly successful dealer with a gallery.
For him, art was the enchanted part of life, the part of life in which anything can happen. He especially loved painting, and he was extremely sensitive to forms and color and feeling, but he always said beauty alone wasn't enough. Beauty could be thin and dry and dull. He looked for "thought and viscera" in the same work, but he knew that wasn't enough to sell either. In order to sell art, you had to "create desire," and "desire," he said, "cannot be satisfied because then it's no longer desire." The thing that is truly wanted must always be missing. "Art dealers have to be magicians of hunger."
I learned an important lesson from a wise teacher, one who had no fixed abode, no steady income, no institutional affiliation or secure patron. He lived simply, with few possessions, yet was the embodiment of happiness. He did enjoy whatever was graciously presented to him, but he didn't hanker for it. In fact, he most often gave to others what he'd received as gifts, including exquisitely crafted objects. He once said, "You just don't need a lot of things." He was truly joyful whenever someone else got something, but didn't feel he had to have that thing too. When they waved their wands, "magicians of hunger" had no effect on him.
But what about the rest of us? What, in fact, is this desire for art, in general or in particular? How do we create balance between wanting/not wanting and getting/not getting while continuing to support our own art and the art of others?
What is the desire the art dealer was talking about? Is it one overarching desire or many different ones?
What is your desire when it comes to art? Does that desire get satisfied? If so, how?