The value of working a retail job at some point in your life as an artist is valuable. The insight into commerce, the feeling of working in service to others—even if only as a raw exchange of goods and services for money, and a camaraderie with people in the same position alongside you are all vital to reaching a deeper understanding of humans in contemporary society. If your art isn’t touching other people in some way, if it’s too . . . deep? It won’t have the power to find and keep an audience or fanbase.
I’ve watched dozens of people I knew over the years find some measure of success with their work, and I’ve come to know a smidgen of it myself. What I’ve noticed about my day jobs, in interacting with customers and clients, is that the amount of care I take with all of them—in craft, in concern that the thing they’re buying is what they want, in appreciation of patronage of all kinds—reflects in a lot of ways in my work.
I’m not sure you can not give a shit at your job and turn contempt around in your art. Probably some geniuses can, but very few of us indeed are those.
You Know That Blank Feeling You Get Just After You’ve Finished a Particularly Brutal Shift at Work and You Can’t Even Think?
I can’t add much to this title, except that I was thinking about all the mess of social media most of us wade through from time-to-time—or even most of the day, for some—and how to deal with it as it washes over us. Dan Hon laid out some decent philosophical razors in this Medium piece. I like him.
In Which I’m Finding Comfort in Several Things I Like, Media-Wise
I’ve been cautious about navel-gazing, here, in that my initial thoughts about what I’m doing and trying to say with the blog were geared toward more universal truths—read “Truths™—and trying to be helpful to other artists. But there’s also a hell of a lot of spaghetti-throwing at the wall to see what sticks and what just makes a soggy mess on the floor.
But I’m moving hundreds of miles away soon. It’s stressful. I’m anxious. In addition to rediscovering how to do the New Age recentering-on-one’s-breath thing, I chose the books I’m reading, the music I listen to, and the videos I watch with a little more care to their humor and their (for lack of a better word) light. Here are a few:
In 12 days, I’ll be on a plane to Portland, Oregon, leaving 16 years of working and living in what the late Harlan Ellison liked to call Baghdad—before the first Gulf War made it a household word and usurped the literary mythos with a contemporary view of a city very far removed from its legendary past. At least, here in the West.
West Hollywood, specifically, meant tolerance and excess, and it meant a certain freedom from feeling like a minority, even if that was probably an illusion. Eventually it became a pain in the ass to get out of and back into, and changing times and fortunes necessitated a move to cheaper neighborhoods.
Change is inevitable. It’s in the details that everything is tweaked, resolved, and given meaning. Where we do our work is supposed to matter less than our vision and intent. But you’ll always be influenced by your environment. Setting matters. People matter.
I’m visiting some friends I may not see for a long time. I probably won’t thank them for whatever influence they had on my work, that would be too weird. But it is there.
The Lessons Jazz Can Teach Other Disciplines, Dead or Not
And by “dead,” I’m being flippant. Obviously there’s a vibrant jazz scene worldwide, if it isn’t a prominent form at the moment. And maybe it never will be.
When I was phoneless the last couple days, I listened to the local jazz station, the eminent KKJZ. An ethereal, assured voice sang a Jobim standard called “Meditation,” and that confident singer was Fay Claassen, a Dutch musician. Her interpretation was a languid study in wistful longing, and on the musicianship side, I was captivated by the way she closed the song with a series of beautiful, cascading “to me”s. It’s haunting and affecting. Check it out if you didn’t already play the link above.
But choosing to play—or even listen to—this less popular music is instructive to other types of art, especially work that relies on any kind of spontaneity or iteration or abstraction. Jazz is a form of constant invention, where improvisation around a theme or scheme is essential to it. And musicians who study and perform it don’t care that it isn’t the hot thing of the moment. They revel in its free expression and demand for skill.
Writers and painters can find allegories in their own work from this.
Group Exhibitions Say a Lot at Once in a Single Space
Why do we care? It’s because it’s a way to think about things like why or how works are chosen, how they fit into a show’s theme, with other artists, and in the space they’re placed. Good things just to think about. If you’re lucky, as in this case, works are good and intriguing, too.
A Little Meditation on Silence From Pitchfork Is No Snarky Take
Points for recognizing the Pogo reference. My phone decided to brick itself sometime last night. Actually, I’m not sure it wanted to stop responding to me, but it does make me feel a little insulted. Or guilty. Maybe I insulted it?
The upshot all is that I have lost my direct, permanent connection to the internet, and therefore the world out there. The upshot of that hyperbole is that I probably put way too much importance in my phone as a conduit to reality.
What had seemed so robust and reliable now seems laughably fragile and tenuous. I’m hoping to take this brief inconvenience–I won’t get a replacement until sometime notice how often I feel the urge to distract myself and avoid other, harder parts of life.
Some of These Days, I Swear—There’s a Book We Should Keep in Mind
Nike’s “JUST DO IT.” branding (written about before, here) was powerful at its inception and it’s still powerful today. At least, it is for me when I’m feeling lazy about working.
In addition to the daily habit principle, it’s really good at cutting through elaborate excuses I have about why I can’t work on anything. Basically, simply, the phrase allows your determination to overcome your fear, if you hit yourself in the ego with it.
Sometimes it seems trite. It still can help get at least a little work done, and that’s what matters, day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. Whether it’s the same project or several, well, you know.