First round's on me

#71: On art as friendship and a call for your peaceful places, ft. late winter walks in my neighborhood

I've been thinking about writing. When I sit down to write, my thoughts are fresh and novel. Raw or recycled, in this brooding moment they are merely acquaintances. I take them on a walk and make of them a friend for the perspective to be gained. The grounds ahead — the potholes and patches of prose — are the nexus of gentleness and sensibility.

In the act of making, what is gained is shared — even if only with the self, the friend, the paper, or the negative. In the expressed perspective, too, is an attribution of value, i.e. when I write, I assert my opinion about what I think is worth writing about. That choice in itself seems to me a dominating indicator of my concerns, values, and personhood.

Our chosen subject may be as much an artist statement as anything; an imprint of our most recent biographical matter. Is what we choose to say... who we choose to become?

Getting down to it

Let's rinse away the philosophical wax. Repeated and familiar, your bartender's film recommendations or your aunt's pumpkin pie are, for you, tied to their identity. We cling to the anecdotes and we piece them into constellations of personality. We long to feel together. The people in our lives have all shared pieces of themselves that are now subject to our own perceptions and judgements of who they are.

As a person who make things, it is inescapable — whatever I end up sharing will define how people perceive me. Undoubtedly vulnerable, but nothing to fear. We do live our entire lives subject to the perceptions, criticisms, and judgements of one another. But none of that should keep us from being who we are and sharing of ourselves what's been to this point unexpressed.

Sharing words and images, sharing any pure thing — is creating a friendship, becoming love. Perhaps that's what we are after when we expose ourselves to an audience: becoming part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s the connectedness we are after, no?

We want to be like each other. We want to discover that we share the same flavor of ice cream, have the same favorite band, share the same goofy generational memories. Still we fear when we share ourselves with the world, that we may not connect, and that our audience may not reciprocate. But the only way to find out that you aren't alone is by sharing what makes you you.

Only does deep relationship, bred in vulnerability, elevate the acquaintance to a friend. A friend sees beyond the immediacy of the tweet-like-pitch-decks of our worldly presence — in these purer and fortified relationships, we find ourselves forgiven of our natural mercuriality and our kiddy-pool personality glitches. In friendship, we eclipse the anecdotes and the caricatures.

Art as friendship

The trick to creating something worth a damn, I think, is inviting an acquainted audience to see past our fickle forms and into candid friendship. Therein lies the challenge of making art; it is all parts vulnerability, and it must be. If art is to challenge and change minds — to lay upon us the questions of life and living — it must be sincere. It must be perceived as earnest and generous. The artist must be a friend. But it gets tricky — to be a friend does not always mean kind words and happiness (rainbows seldom stretch the sky for long). What is real? What is love? And what is worth a damn?

The artist as friend is the proprietor of perspective, seeing and showing what’s been unobserved. This kind of generous vulnerability is the vehicle for relational nirvana. We cannot hold back. We must give ourselves over to the work of making and being. We must bare our souls; we must be completely vulnerable.

The realness of love is better examined in between the grand gestures — in moments of normal and forgettable afternoons. It is my perspective that extravagance can take from love; that a museum can steal from art. Removing a loving friendship or an artwork (one and the same) from its humble conception — the studio desk, a kiss in the hall between classes — can thieve its reason-to-be: to be real, to be approachable, and to connect. Art is friendship is love — an encompassing expression of depth and care that more often reveals itself as a first-round of beers than a dozen of roses.

Think to when you first heard a favorite song, to when you first connected with a photo-book or a series of paintings. Think to the first novel you really fell for and gushed over. Or the first time you felt at home faraway, simply because you were eating or drinking something familiar. I struggle to avoid framing these moments as grandly pivotal, because I feel, romantically, that they are — but the fact of the matter is that these moments and those like them were all experienced so casually: in the comfort of a sunken couch, in the passenger's seat of your best friend's car, a desk in your high school art room, a booth at a faraway diner…

I’ve been thinking about a piece I read on ‘photo dumps and I’ve been drawn to consider more deeply what actually pulls us in to something, someone, somewhere: “Photo dumps are low effort and sometimes that’s exactly what you want — some half-cocked, uncalculated fluff.” Yes. Enough with the polished and calculated! We want real. Real love, quietly quilted together with the might and mystery of everyday romance.

So.

I’ve been thinking about writing. And I hope I’m making some friends.

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I want to hear from you 💬

There are special places we go when we need a moment of peace. Myself, I meander through cemeteries or sit by the lake. Today I want to know about your peaceful places for a future issue I’m putting together. Press the button below to comment!

Tell me about your peaceful place. What makes it peaceful? Feel free to share about your last visit, or why you hold it dear. Is it far? Close by? How often do you visit? What do you do when you’re there? Let’s get real; let’s be friends.

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This week’s links 🔮

And finally, garnish your waning summer days with Mr. Good Time, my poolside cocktail of carefree bops…


February walk 📷

Kodak’s Portra 400 on the Pentax 67 at 75mm.

A set of unshared images from Mid City walks. Pictured: a pre-Bub’s reflection on Banks Street, hard shadows and old cars, a beige moment of pause, and a biker whirs by Denis and Fran’s place.

“Whoever commits himself may not hold back part of himself; and the work does not permit me, as a tree or man might, to seek relaxation in the It-world; it is imperious: if I do not serve it properly, it breaks, or it breaks me.”

Martin Buber, on the risk of making art