Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Words of Chuck Close and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Rilke - the poet.

Close - the painter.

I was reading a book called Wisdom which featured interviews with prominent cultural icons and Chuck Close was one of them.

I agreed with two statements of his and have since taken them to heart: he mentioned he wouldn't create if he didn't have an audience, and that you can't rely on inspiration in order to create since it's based on discipline and devotion.

The former statement goes against what a lot of people base their ideology around - how they would create even if no one was around to see their work, how it doesn't matter if no one cares, because what matters is the fact that they're expressing themselves and working.
But I found Chuck Close's statement to be refreshing and honest - he's working (despite his paralysis) because he knows other people care about his efforts and not simply to satiate the need (if it is a need) to create for his own purposes.

Does this contrast what Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet? He stated that "if one feels they could live without writing, one shouldn't write at all".
I originally interpreted this to mean that if you think you could work at another profession aside from writing, you shouldn't write. This mode of thinking places a limit on an author - how they're expected only to write. Look at Sherwood Anderson or Franz Kafka, who had prominent positions as president of a manufacturing company and for a worker accident insurance company respectively.

They were working and writing. The question is if they were writing for an audience. Or maybe the bigger question is if their love for writing is what really mattered. Because that's also what Rilke could've meant. But people can enjoy something yet still live without it, and I don't think that if people write for simple expression or enjoyment that they should be deprived of it.

What Rilke may have meant is that if you're not serious about the progression of literature and write only for fame or money, then you're not writing for the proper reasons. And I would agree with him on that. But if he's saying that the only people who write should devote themselves to literature and not have the potential to become something else (even if it's something they don't have as much enthusiasm for), I disagree with that because it limits our freedoms.

Which ties into another statement by Rilke: "Don't write love poems." To which I think, "Don't tell me what to write and what not to write." Which may seem immature, like I'm going against one of my parents, but it's true. Just because the love poem can easily become bathetic, that doesn't mean it doesn't have potential. To write one and not make it trite (while retaining a high level of truth and emotion) is I think an admirable effort.

Chuck Close's statement of not letting your work be guided by inspiration also ties into Rilke's. A lot of writing is inspired by love, and rightly so. But at the same time, if I write solely because I was inspired by an attractive girl I saw and left writing alone for the rest of the time, would I really be accomplishing anything of value and demonstrating my love for the artform, or just trying to use the artform without appreciating it? I think it's perfectly alright to be inspired and to draw upon the strength from that - that's what I do on a regular basis. But I now believe that the dedication stokes the fire of the inspiration, thanks to Close's comment - a support that lacks in my life more often than not.

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