Note: This piece was originally posted on January 2, 2012. I am re-posting it for two reasons. One, it touches on something very important that I am in the midst of working through right now and, two, it will buy me time to write a post I’m just beginning that I feel deserves the space of a day to do.
Yesterday’s post was unusual for me. It may have sounded too raw for some of you and it didn’t get much of a response. However, Terry Litton wrote a very sensitive reply to this challenging post that I feel may open up a discussion on a topic that artists don’t openly talk about, except to other artists: the struggle of earning a living.
So I’ll be spending the day writing a piece that I hope will spur a discussion. Until tomorrow…
Max Ernst: Inspiration For the New Year
A friend invited me over the other night to watch a biography of Max Ernst, a film by Peter Schamoni. I knew of Ernst as an artist, but wasn’t prepared for how inspiring I would find his life. Max Ernst lived to create. While achieving renown during his lifetime, he never sold particularly well. But he made his art anyway. That his particular vision wasn’t well received, apparently, meant little to him. He created because it was in him to do. He worked tirelessly to satisfy his own curiosity, to please his own eye, to scratch his own, personal, itch.
Robert Henri says, “There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual… At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen. It fills us with surprise. We marvel at it. We would continue to hear it. But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song… The fun of living is that we have to make ourselves, after all…” It seems to me that Max lived within his own song and that he continued the process of making himself every day, no matter what change that might entail. To live is the point, as Max did, as Henri advises. To stay within our song as much of the time as humanly possible; to allow life to unfold as it’s presented.
Max seemed to flow naturally with his life, unencumbered by the social conventions that can hinder many of us. He lived fully, embracing whatever opened before him, seemingly unquestioningly. He simply leapt wholeheartedly into the various unknowns that were presented over the course of his lifetime, as innocent as a child. This meant that he was often in a state of flux, change his seeming constant. But the point is that he was true to himself, whatever that meant in each moment. If you watch the movie, and I highly recommend that you do, you’ll see that Max seemed to always be smiling, as though he knew some secret the others didn’t. And I think he did. The man was at peace with his choices.
I don’t know how he afforded his life but he seemed not to be concerned, at least in this telling of his story. He appeared to trust that his financial needs would be met, and they were. I do believe that when we are on our path, the universe will meet us there and support our continuing. But, in my own life, I often struggle with trusting that.
I am writing this on New Year’s Day, an appropriate time to reflect on how I’ve been living and what I might change. Today I resolve to take the example of Max Ernst’s life as a blueprint for my own, as much as I am able. I will endeavor to consciously follow the trail blazed by him many years ago. And I will find belief in his believing, determination for my vision, trust for this path I walk, Max Ernst my inspiration.
As Max, himself, said, “Painting is not for me either decorative amusement, or the plastic invention of felt reality; it must be every time: invention, discovery, revelation.” Indeed. Here’s to invention, discovery and revelation for us all in 2012.
Love to you all,