Artists = suffering?

Voice Card  -  Volume 15  -  Stuart Card Number 2  -  Mon, Jul 16, 1990 8:46 PM

This is ONE OF 3 responses to Vol 14 John 13 ("The Suffering Continues")...

There seems to be a slippery word sliding around in in this conversation that is squirting away from our grasps like a bar of soap. The word is "suffering." One definition that I would give is "that experience that allows the art to get created."

For example, I'm writing this card from an artists' colony, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. This is a great place, a place where artists, composers and writers come to do nothing but to work on the art. There is a hall in which we eat and sleep and generally relax.

About 200 yards away from the residence hall is a large labyrinthine, barn-like structure. This structure is divided up into artists studios. Some are for visual artists, some are for composers, and the rest are for writers (this place can house @20 artists at a time).

Each morning we wake up and look out the window and see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We eat breakfast and don't have to worry about cleaning up. After breakfast, most of us (the exception are those who work at night, those John Cartan types of the world) go off to the studio to work. Around noon, we poke our heads outside our studios and find a lunch bucket with a nice (usually) tasty lunch waiting for us. After lunch under the trees we go back to the studio for another stretch of art making/creating.

Around 4:00, after about 6-7 hours of work, some of us go swimming or stretch our bodies in other assorted ways. At six, we convene in the dining hall, where our dinner is waiting for us all prepared. After dinner some of us go back to our studios for another one or two hours of work. Almost without exception, all the fellows here think that this is a blissful situation in which to work on our art.

This colony gives us an interlude (for most of us around a month) where we can keep the outside world at bay. We don't have to worry about bills, or the kids, or mowing the lawn or anything. We just work on our art in this idyllic setting.

Like most fellows, I find that I am able to work on poems for around 8 hours a day here (in the real world if I get four hours, a rare occurance, I consider myself lucky). Because I can completely, without distractions, immerse myself in my work, I figure I'll get about 6 months to a year's worth of work (depending on the year) done in my 3 1/2 weeks stay here.

The work I do here is hard, much harder than teaching or any other job I do. And my point to all this is that the artists colony provides us with all our needs taken care of so that we can "suffer" with our art - craft it, wrestle, shape it, hone it down, get it "right." It is hard, scrabbling work. To get a piece of art done, even a little poem, takes hours and hours of stitching and restiching of words, hours and hours of meditation and thought and hard feeling with all the stops of the senses opened full blast.

And I guess the point of this digression is that this experience of an artists' colony, this situation that provides a quickened percolation period in which to create art, entails a type of suffering.