The Writer On The Artist Spectrum
January 24, 2010 3 Comments
I think all artists need an audience. This is everyone from musicians to sculptors to painters. Everyone who has ever expressed an idea in tangible form or otherwise has needed an audience. To those who disagree – if they didn’t, then they’d just keep the idea in their own heads. There is an undeniable need in an artist for other people to experience their art. Art is after all, an interaction between the artist and the audience. It is absorbing impressions and communicating them to the universe outside.
Each art form carries its own framework of the artist/audience interaction and I think we gravitate to art forms that fit our needs the best.
The visual arts, painting and sculpting and other related arts are at one end of the spectrum. The artists are usually recluses. They rarely interact with their audience during the creation of their art and their only communication is in the final product. How often do you see a painter or sculptor standing next to his or her work, willing to talk about it? These people are somewhat reclusive and in some cases even antisocial, preferring the least amount of conversation with their audience.
At the other end of the spectrum are the performing arts – music, dance, acting, oratory. The audience is crucial to the performance as the performer himself/herself. Ask anyone who has practiced these arts and they will tell you how important it is to relate to the audience, to get them involved and enjoying the performance. As a result I think these are also the arts that draw the more sociable artists of all. Immediate and constant interaction with other people is very important to the performer. I’ll go so far to say that performers are the artists who need other people the most, during every minute of their performance. (For the after, that’s true of all artists).
So where does writing fall on this spectrum? Are we the reclusive visual artists because we hide behind our smokescreen of words? Or are we the vivacious performers because we are constantly engaging and facilitating conversations?
I always thought of a writer as someone who lets you sit on his shoulder and view the world as he sees it. Or even better, he lets you in through a little door, into his mind and allows you to read what he thinks and understand what it is like to be him. In that sense, the writer is exactly in the middle. The visual artist is at one end, holding out his art at arm’s length for you to see. The performer is the quicksilver, weaving himself around you to take on your form. The writer, in contrast to both the above, brings you into himself and allows you to experience the world as he does.
I have an interest as well as at least a little bit of talent in music as well as painting. I’ve performed on stage and I’ve won some recognition for my paintings. But writing is art that feels most like me.
Writers are the only other people who understand my alternating between being a social butterfly and an extreme recluse. That back-and-forth is the very essence of being a writer. Letting the whole world in and then shutting it all out – it’s as natural as breathing for a writer. We have neither the stoic dignity of a visual artist who doesn’t need another person till he has finished. And nor do we have the unwavering adaptability of a performer to dissolve into other people. We have a little bit of both and we oscillate, collecting material from the world around us, turning it over in ourselves, carrying other people inside our heads and then examining how we feel about that. The words, the thoughts are constantly shifting and shaping themselves and we chase after them with nets of language to convert them into stories for the next person to ride our minds.