The Song of Roland

Voice Card  -  Volume 15  -  John Card Number 21  -  Sun, Jul 29, 1990 04:23 AM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to Vol 15 Roger 1 ("An Artist's life")...


I will begin by answering your four questions.

1. Was he successful?

Obviously, this depends on your definition of success, and no two people have the same definition. Some will say he was, some will say he wasn't. I would be most interested in hearing Roland's own opinion. If success is getting through life as peacefully and unobtrusively as possible, Roland was a success. If success is taking chances and meeting challenges and making discoveries, Roland was a failure. When he is alone in bed at night, away from the demands of his mother and "friends," I wonder what Roland REALLY thinks. I wonder how HE would answer this question.

2. Does an artist really have to suffer to be successful?

An artist does not have to suffer to be successful, but he does have to suffer to be AN ARTIST.

3. Does agony have to show in a work of art to be artistic?

No. At least not on the surface. A lighthearted Shakespearean Comedy is a work of art even if it's not full of "agony." But even a comedy has its dark side, and some of Mark Twain's funniest pieces are very dark underneath.

4. Does an American Artist have to be recognized by New York Art magazines and newspapers to be a great artist?


It is important to comment on the danger of hypothetical case histories. In asking and answering questions about Roland, it is easy to forget that he is not a real person, perhaps not even a very realistic person.

There are several things about your character sketch that disturb me. This guy seems to have a deep-seated need to please his mother, and devotes his entire life to something his mother wants him to do rather than figuring out what HE wants to do, and yet he's supposed to be perfectly content and happy-go-lucky. This does not add up. There has got to be some turmoil here. This guy should turn out more like Norman Bates than light-hearted Roland!

I also object to this idea that painting and sculpture good enough to appear in a gallery and attract even a bad review from New York is something Roland just fell into because it was so much easier than baseball. Revealed here is the fallacy that creating works of art is easy for certain people (see previous card). But art is NEVER easy, even for amateur dilettantes who dabble on weekends.

And I find it hard to believe that Roland could pick up a fine art education without also picking up a reverence for great works of art and a desire to make such works himself. If he was really so cynical and shallow as pick up the "jargon" without believing any of it had meaning and value, I doubt he would have a lot of artist friends, or even a lot of friends.

In short, I was not able to suspend my disbelief. I don't believe in Roland.