The Art and the Artist

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world

is what we share with someone else

when we’re uncool.”

Phillips Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs

in Almost Famous

My Entertainment Weekly this week had Philip Seymour Hoffman on the cover, and the article, written by Owen Gleiberman, began with the line, “This one hurts.”  Oddly, this seemed to sum up perfectly for me my feeling about the loss of this actor, though admittedly I am no film expert and have certainly not seen all of his movies.  I have, however seen some of them, and have enjoyed what work of his I’ve seen.  Even with my inexpert eye, I would call him a great actor.

So I had to ask myself, why did this death of a famous actor hurt?  Initially I would say it was just that it is such a tragic loss of someone far too young.  But really it didn’t stop there.  That he died so needlessly perhaps was another part of why.

As I watched the aftermath though, and followed some of the comments online or in the news or in listening to friends and co-workers, I found that it seemed impossible to just mention his death and admire his work.  No, then we had to talk about needles, about a wrecked home life, and about addiction.  But most comments were not about addiction in a sense that we need to address finding a way to help those fighting similar battles.  Many of the comments seemed to dismiss the greatness of the art because of the flaws of the artist.

As someone just now beginning to explore her own art, I wonder if it is possible to separate the work of the artist from the life of the artist.  And further, should there be a separation?

I have recently joined the blogging community, and the Twitter community of writers.  I see that there seems to be an increasing demand on artists to promote themselves and not just their work.  Sure you can be one who just shills your latest release, but you don’t get the number of followers with a “Go read my new book” tweet that you do with something a bit more involved.   Throw in some tips or some humor and you get more of a response.  What is too little or too much?  It seems many are still sorting that out.

So I ask myself, as someone just now working to acknowledge and develop the artist within, what should I expect from myself as an artist and as someone working to promote that work?  Surely I want to produce work that I can be proud of and live a life that hopefully does not detract from the work but strengthens it.  But how best to do that seems to be the biggest question.

All I can come up with is that I have to be as truthful as I know how to be.  I need to write as much as I can and as honestly as I can and represent myself as best I can.  As I continue this challenge to write every day, I’ll be looking for ways that I can grow, not just as a writer, but personally as well.  Then, I’ll work harder to share that here in this blog.

In the meantime, this “Moment of Zen” from a recent Daily Show spotlights beautifully the artist, not the addict, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I’ll do my best to write with all my heart so that when people read what I’ve written, like having seen someone act with all their heart, they’ll remember.