Friday Nov 29, 2002
A House is Not a Home
One of the most powerful feelings is that of feeling at home, a place where we belong. Home is not merely physical space; it is everthying connected with that space and all that the senses perceive and associate with it.
I have met artists who couldn’t work unless certain conditions were met. Let’s take one well-known artist who lived in California. I had met his mistress, an art critic, at a party.
She told me me how he worked.
This artist, she told me, had a huge studio. He would never let anyone in the studio while he was painting. Although he could well afford to, he never gave any of his works to friends and supporters as gifts. I had seen a book about this artist’s work, which was yet another case of the Emperor’s Clothes. If collectors were willing to pay six figures for his work that was their business and, no doubt, astonishing to him in honest private moments.
This artist worked on big canvases. Sure, he could paint under whatever conditions he desired. Still, this notion of having just the right conditions added a thread to all the other lines I had heard from artists over the years.
Some could only work at night, or in the morning, or in the afternoon. Some needed the right brush, the right canvas, the right easel, the right room, the right light, the right space, the right model, the right music. You get the picture.
The true artist is not confined by medium, nor the conditions for working. I understand that many fall into the habit of working under certain situations, which is not a problem as long as the conditions remain flexible. If not recognized as a habit, conditions all too often degenerate into neurotic behavior—the stuff that fuels pseudo biographies and Hollywood films about artists.
I can work alone or in the presence of other people and I work where I am. I do have one condition for working when others are in close proximity. The energy must be positive. Talk, laughter, merriment are welcome. Agonizing, complaining, whining. or any cousins of that family are not permitted.
For all those who would like to visit my atelier, I welcome them. Please check neurosis at the door. You may take it with you when you leave if you like.
As for that artist in California, he dropped his mistress who still pined for him. He became ill and those in his inner circle began fishing around for kickbacks, insider trading of sorts in the art business, by letting certain collectors know that he’d soon be slipping on that last banana peel into the unknown. Some time later, he died. The value of his work, as expected, increased in the marketplace. If you saw one of his pieces propped up against a dumpster, I doubt you would lug it home unless you were an artist who wanted a good piece of canvas to paint over.
At another party, I met this mistress again. She wept for the artist, dead now for nearly a year, but regained her composure. She told me she liked my work. Over the months, she had seen me working at a cafe or at a mutual friend’s house. I really like your work, she said again, and I don’t why. I told her that maybe some day she would know.
The home people are looking for is themselves.»
Exactly. Your words are the shimmering Buddha Dharma.