This is Open Studio weekend around here, when painters, sculptors, glass workers, furniture makers and other servants of Art and Beauty clean their brushes, sweep out the stone chips, mow their lawns, and bake cookies so that accountants, engineers, farmers and school teachers can get to see The Artist At Home.
Ah, la vie boheme! Gauguin in the tropics, Toulouse-Lautrec on the Left Bank, Picasso in his castle, with his women–the art is fabulous, but the life is almost as fabulous as the art. Who hasn\’t, when buying a piece of art, also hoped to take home, along with the object, a whiff of the artist\’s life?
There is the notion, born of the Romantic era, that the artist marches to a different drummer. Therefore–and this conclusion must have come along with the Industrial Revolution–the artist\’s life must be somehow freer, more exciting than the life of regular folk. If the industrial age created this myth, however, the economic upheavals of the postmodern era are in the process of debunking it.
As I wandered from studio to studio to gallery opening today, I saw a lot of work, and a lot of courage. I heard some panic, and some sorrow too–one sculptor told me that he had just learned that a gallery that had been in business over thirty years and carried his work for sixteen had gone bankrupt. And I heard a lot of determination to keep going because…because you gotta paint, gotta sculpt, gotta make jewelry, furniture, whatever, because life wouldn\’t be the same without it.
In the end, the picture that I came away with from my Open Studio wanderings looked a lot less like Toulouse-Lautrec drinking absinthe on the Left Bank, and a lot more like the old Matisse, with a paintbrush taped to his arthritic hand because what else was there to do? Gotta paint….