Some art-comedian should take that line and run with it, because there's a wealth of material there somewhere.
I can imagine just such a joke being told by Rob Reiner's character in this movie:
We've been having a little Woody Allen Filmfest at our house, which is a good thing to do in Minnesota in February. It takes your mind off other things. And one of the first films in the lineup was Bullets Over Broadway. It's full of such wonderful conversations about the nature of art, who is an artist and who isn't, what art is and what it's not, and its importance or lack thereof.
As in most of Woody's films, just when the quick-streaming dialogue seems to have delivered the sum total of universal human truth, there's the flash of non sequitur that makes you say, "huh?" Watching it is just like eating something that's full of really complex flavors you can't quite identify but that also tastes sort of like your favorite comfort food.
Best of all, in this particular film the artist turns out not to be an artist after all. And the uneducated thug turns out to be an artist who is actually willing to give his life for his art, when it comes down to it.
All of this comes up because we were at a lovely dinner party the other night with some friends who also invited their neighbors. We met and exchanged the usual pleasantries -- jobs, kids, Minnesota in February, etc., when it came out that his (the other guest's) novel had just come out.
So our hostess ran to get her copy so we could see it. Seriously -- a hefty hardcover volume by a real publisher with actual reviews on the dust jacket and stuff like that. And it required a lot of restraint to not say, "Wow -- congratulations!" immediately followed by a less enthusiastic, "You're living my dream."
It certainly shot holes in the premise I've based my life on thus far, that there's no point trying to be a writer because the chances of a regular person having their novel published are roughly the same as winning the lottery, and therefore it's really not a very smart investment.
And of course I was reminded of the scene from Broadcast News in which William Hurt says, "What do you do when your real life actually surpasses your dream life?"
and Albert Brooks answers, "Keep it to yourself."
A few minutes later, he (The Writer) asked me "if I considered myself to be an artist?"
Now that's a really big question for a first date, so I reeled under the weight of it for a moment before I started to answer, "I guess I consider myself to be a Folk Artist." But I never really got to give an explanation as to why I would designate myself as such. There is actually quite a lengthy and well-constructed one, now that you mention it, which has nothing to do with my "charmingly-naive style" but everything to do with my journey as a self-taught artist. Or whatever we call it.
In hindsight, I think the best dinner-party answer (and the one I plan to use should the situation ever arise again) would be, "it's complicated."
I do have a collection of artist-name-tags, which might help clarify things, but I'm not in the habit of wearing them to dinner parties.
I suppose I could have handed him one of my very first business cards,
printed way back when I was just beginning to peddle my wares in a few little shops and was still quite unsure as to
"whether I was or whether I wasn't,"
and certainly "whether or not it was."
I guess we've made progress in 20 years, going from "almost art" to "it's complicated." That's something, right?
My graduate-of-prestigious-art-school daughter once told me that she and all her friends lovingly refer to art school as "fantasy camp."
This made me laugh, of course, and I immediately assumed it was because they're all now drowning under mountains of student debt and un- or under-employed, but they could all draw unbelieveably swell pictures on demand, if only someone would demand it.
She later explained to me that my assumption was wrong. "The reason we call it fantasy camp," she said, "is that at art school you could take your pants off and hang them on the wall. And someone would stop and ask you what you were doing, and why, and what you were trying to say, and what the motivation was behind the concept, and then they would actually listen with interest for half an hour while you answered the question."
So I've decided that what it comes down to, this "being an artist or not being one", must be:
your ability to really sell your
And I'm not sure where I stand on that ability spectrum -- somewhere between almost and complicated, I guess.
It reminds me of the old Peanuts bit where Charlie Brown and the others are looking at clouds and someone sees things about man's existential dilemma or some other nonsense and Charlie Brown says, "Oh, I was about to say I see a ducky and a bunny." Something like that.
So then (back to the dinner party) someone said, "Well, Susan writes a blog", and we discussed that for a second after which I immediately remembered our poor friend, Pig:
and it didn't really make me feel better to be able to say, "Yes, I'm Susan and I publish my poetry on my blog. Then I write reviews about me by me."
You can see what I mean, right?
Anyway, I am genuinely looking forward to reading a real and hefty novel written by a regular person that I just had dinner with and to whom I could potentially have explained whether or not I consider myself to be an artist. At our next dinner party I'm hoping to have "book club" with the author.
And I guess there must be an artist of some kind somewhere around here, because it's
Small Works Framing Week!
And I know just the thought of framing week is making my kids homesick.
Because framing week means frames in various stages of construction spread over every possible surface in both the kitchen and family rooms, accompanied by a fine layer of sawdust and punctuated with varnish fumes and paint splatter.
And for heaven's sake don't try to cook or eat anything in the kitchen during framing week! What's wrong with you?!!
ca. 1950 -- happier times before children were forced to endure the neglect of a mother's Framing Week
Framing week also usually means Mom's getting a little stressed, because where there are frames there's sure to be a show somewhere nearby.
And where there's a show, wouldn't it follow that there is probably art?
I believe we've established that nobody's sure whether or not there's art, but I can tell you that this week if I were a drinker, you would probably find me in a bar. With all the other maybe-artists.