Righteous Artistic Fulfillment
O. The artists. With their cumbersome self-importance. How many are supported by their families and friends? How many are living out their dreams, independently, frugally, with hope and self-satisfaction?
That all depends on your point of view, I guess. Because no "artist" really wants to be called out for their sense of entitlements just as they do not want their hard work to go unnoticed. And through the years, the artist has had to work just as hard, as any other person, at trying to make it.
Can Bohemia, these days, be cultivated without a car or a job? IF there is something that the artist wants to do, how can they go about doing it without some kind of financial support?
They probably have to join within the crowds which is antithetical to what made them artists in the first place. They were "different" and "daring" and "righteous" and "inventive." (I am putting these words in quotes because there is no difference, to me, between the artist and the common laborer. Each person is fulfilling his or her own destiny, in their own way. And if it happens to be with slinging a paintbrush or cooking in a kitchen 12 hours a day, the only difference is mental. The physical work is there, we’d like to think. Although who can be lazier on the job? The artist or the everyday type of worker? Again -- it’s all mental.)
But joining up with the workforce presents the paradox that most of us have intertwined into our daily affairs. Get up, shower, get dressed -- get to work.
Must we all follow along the same guidelines? Must we all participate of the treadmill?
I think that if everybody were the same, society would be quite boring and rote. So the artist is there, and has been through the centuries, existing in this world, looking and working to express his or herself. Their creations have revived our spirits, even at times when their own souls have perished into the grim reminders of circumstance that this world can epitomize.
For certain sensitive souls -- as the artist is invariably sensitive -- the world can feel like a knot in one’s stomach. This doesn’t bode well for having to deal with a society that has no problem with chewing you up and spitting you out.
So how can the artistic personalities thrive in a world encumbered by taxes, paychecks, stocks, bonds, hospitals, health insurance, water and electricity bills, rent, dentists, commercialism, colonialism, injustice, the Federal Reserve, inflation, greed, etc., etc.?
By escaping into their art!
Of course, that doesn’t make any of the world any less real. All the things that make up our lives still remain, no matter how distant and detached we become in our work.
In the early 20th Century, many artists left the United States, or wherever they called home, and they sought to travel abroad. Paris was one of the places many expatriates flocked, to get away from the economic and social malaise of post-World War One America. (Just like the Beat generation in post-World War II America, as they went against the grain of conforming to a materialism in society that they abhorred.) In Paris, they found that they were able to live out their lives as they saw fit -- without having to squeeze into the preconceived roles that society had made ready for them. The expatriates were revolutionary in their approach to life.
They wanted to be free.
Bohemia was constructed in a far off place, because America was becoming too regimented. Also the Depression was affecting millions. Plenty of artists thought that they would never make it, had they stayed in their home country which was being hollowed out by consumerist principles that made society dull, monotonous and dreary. Just as what would happen in the latter years of the forties, a social movement amongst the artistic population had rendered work into something entirely different. Work could be joyous and filled with wonder and excitement! It didn’t have to be what everybody else was doing -- that awful and ugly phrase.
As time passed, things started costing more money. Inflation carried us into the technological Age, where bubbles grew and popped and left a bunch of people broke, homeless and disillusioned within their once prosperous land. How did the artist fare? They had to make the difficult choice of choosing between getting to WORK and creating on the side, or doing their creative work and finding some other way to make ends meet.
In essence, the conforming to the marketplace’s dictates has only grown in pull and scope. This affects all of us, as we will only see more and more as the future unfolds. But with society so interconnected, and with inflationary policies driving down the value of the dollar ... most artists are struggling with just trying to practice their art. Although there are certain cities and towns in this country that recognize the hardships of their populations, and the artists among them, it still is not any less difficult today to live off of one’s own creations.
In fact, it’s almost fucking impossible.
I Don’t Got No Wheels To Spin
Living without a car -- that’s hard enough. With taking the train or bus or subway every day, one loses a sense of freedom that having a vehicle creates. (Of course, the taxes we must pay for gasoline go right under our noses almost like a Van Gogh through the end of the 19th Century.) But can one live like a bohemian without a set of wheels?
It helps to not have to pay for gas, automobile insurance, and other registration fees. That could save you a few hundred bucks or so, each month, on art supplies, cigarettes, wine, and food -- the cliché of what the artist typically goes without. Sacrificing mobility for the sake of one’s art -- in today’s society, how many are willing to live that life, and for how long?
And then there’s the role of the worker, in the job market. Say that the artist, all flush with wine and smokes and a belly full of grub, they have decided to remain unemployed.
Well, I say: Good luck. Because, without a decent line of credit -- whether through banks, credit unions, parents or friends -- you won’t last very long. You could end up in the streets, sleeping in parks or on floors and couches, flopping from hostel to hotel to motel, until it all becomes one bad dream.
Without the psychic anchor of having a place to live, sleep, eat and work, life opens up to a whole new meaning. Survival takes precedent. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a strengthening experience for the individual that seeks resiliency from living their life like some kind of poetic outlaw. But if nobody buys your work as you remain unemployed, kiss that self-righteousness goodbye. And say hello to the demons of the world that will haunt your every waking moment. Living without money is like being a leper. You’d better find a (working) hippie commune.
Withal, the artist in this country must work as hard as anyone, if they are ever going to have any hope of making it. Of course, this doesn’t resonate too well with those that are looking to cultivate their own bohemia. And if it can be done, so be it.
For the rest of our future is whatever is to be expected of us. And if we expect something great of ourselves, then that’s all that really matters. Neither car nor job mean a damn thing, unless you want them to mean something.
It’s all mental. And, for the genuine artist at heart or of the mind, it rings especially true.
Image Sourced: Monroe