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November 2012

Suffering for One’s Art

The suffering artist’s theory is one that I have consistently debunked over time as an excuse to engage in hedonistic, often self-destructive behavior and to use “art” as the motive.


I have witnessed and even been forced to become a “first responder” to the adherents of suffering for one’s art. The experiences were not pleasant; in fact, they were quite malodorous. My guess is that very little true art came of those traumatic events, save the frightening images in my mind that were later used in my own art. One might say that I suffered through their suffering.


Of course it through the labor of love, the process of suffering through love that one transforms pain into true art. Emotionally, it is a costly process, but one cannot count the cost. The concept of suffering anything intentionally for the express purpose of creating something from such an experience strikes me as indecent, even vulgar. Such tawdry behavior is replete with the ghastly egotism and narcissism of our time. Those most unfortunate strains in our society have denigrated all forms of art, even advertising. Grotesque displays parade as entertainment. They are often referred to as “over the top.” I dare say that “over the top” is quite “the bottom of the barrel.”


These coarse performances are foisted upon a mass audience that is no longer “mass” or even massive. “Pop culture” is a product that has degenerated into something that is neither “pop- ular” nor “culture.” This dross is offered to a sliver of a demographic that has become an ever-evaporating bandwidth in the ionosphere of commerce, that place where art and business once merged. Now there is only business; and it is a tacky one at best. The audience now suffers for the abysmal lack of art.


While I maintain that I do not suffer for my art, I concede that I have created artistic visions out of a past which involved suffering. I also avow that while I am rendering my tender but turmoiled memories into art, I am not often consciously aware of the anguish that is subconsciously being transformed into a creative work. It is only later, after the work is finished, that I come to realize the myriad pieces of my past which were employed for artistic creation.


It is ironic, but I must be happy to write tragedy or even a semblance of it. I do not believe that I must be in a state of cathartic crisis to write comedy, but if the situation occurs, I certainly do not turn away from it.


As Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I might add, “And proceed with an ironic smile.”

I offer a quote from another magnificent statesman, this one Irish. Edmund Burke stated, “Fiction lags after truth.” Thus the attempts by the adherents of suffering for one’s art to create “art” from their intentional sham of an experience are, in any and all events, futile. They attempt to cheat life, which is the source of art, and to use a contrived experience as a mere bank account for creativity. This poseur stack of funds from which the presumed artist draws soon runs dry, thereby necessitating more “experience” for the “creativity.” The more outrageous the “experience,” the more deep and meaningful it is believed by the poseur that the “art” will be. Baneful realms of modernity encourage this extortion of life by applauding the fraud and his crass products of self-indulgence.


One cannot put art, be it fiction or any other form, ahead of the truth that resides in reality. Truth always wins; art can only hope to aspire to it. Art, like humor, succeeds only when it is based on truth, and ergo, lags it.