Why Bother with Art?


By Chad Rodriguez


isaac (1)-crop-u18002.png

There are a thousand reasons why The Last Sweet Days of Isaac [1] is my all-time favorite musical. It opens to a man spectacularly proclaiming his death now that he has turned the 33 and continues as the lead, Isaac, explains his artistry to a stranger: “My life art! Me! No one will ever be able to experience this masterpiece I am making but me...I am both the artist and the audience.”

Art, especially life art, is of profound importance to me and it’s about high time we start recognizing each and every person on this planet as an artist. Just as a painter plans the layout of their composition and just as the musician stylizes their cover of a famous song, every person has a set of decisions and conditions that create art within their life [2]. Ultimately, the obstacle that separates the everyman and everywoman from recognizing the careful aesthetic curation of their lives, that separates the life artist from their life art, is the need for appreciation.

When the artist comes to mind, they paint, they sing, they draw, they film, they write, and not only do they do it extraordinarily well, they are famed for this and make money from it. I think of Salvador Dali in his ostentatious egg castle, Frida’s well-attended funeral where she rose from flame, or Wes Anderson in a rustic presumably yellow-orange cottage. These artists are recognized, appreciated, and compensated as a direct result of their art. I mean no offense to anyone hoping to be a paid artist, but for the majority of artists [3] these are somewhat unrealistic expectations.

Frankly, unless people [4] are comfortable with your art, you don’t stand a chance. Comfortable in this context doesn’t mean ‘not uncomfortable,’ rather, it means ‘comfortable or uncomfortable in a comfortable way’ [5]. People are comfortable with Banksy and all of the other gen-X artists who make obvious statements, no matter how uncomfortable we think we are or how disturbed Banksy wants us to be [6].

Art will be accepted if we are ready for it. And if we are not then how will the the Illuminati recognize your genius, appreciate your art and compensate your hard work? Well, frankly, they won’t.

But that shouldn’t be enough to stop making art, to stop living one’s life. Isaac persists in his life art because he has no choice. To make life art is to be alive. Making life into an art keeps things interesting enough to stick around, and making art in your life will make you interesting enough for others to stick around. Some of us are destined to be great artists. Those I have mentioned reached a certain status through their art during their lifetime and continued making art until their death [7]. We think of the classic story of Vincent van Gogh: a man who painted in a very particular style and was poorly received by his contemporaries. Everybody hated him and his art and he cut his ear off [8]. Regardless of how little people wanted him to do so, he persisted in his artistry. Any engineering or business major would call this stupid. I even once wrote a poem about how stupid I personally thought van Gogh was for not giving up on his art [9].

Some of us succumb to reason; some artists become counselors or accountants or doctors without recognizing the art we are making every day. We fail to put art back into the world. I can only imagine that many, many, many great artists have been lost this way. Van Gogh idiotically kept painting long enough to make one of the most famous paintings in the world, even though he never met a single fan of his work. I think of hundreds of thousands of Vincent van Goghs who could be appreciated today, and even those today who studied business instead of art and never drew another brain with a clitoris [10], and I realize that there is so much art that is lost to the void. The void of capitalism, the void of necessity, the void of apathy.

There is no one to watch the decades of life art I could have recorded. When I am done I suppose I will have to set up the recording in front of a baby and hope it entertains them sufficiently for the next 70 or 80 years. Regardless, there is the great need inside oneself that I hope outweighs the need for recognition, for appreciation, and for compensation: the need for fulfillment.

Everyone has art inside themselves, but not enough people make art for fear of failing to find the recognition, the appreciation, or the compensation that would motivate them. Within the smallest crevices of your life, in the space between brushing your teeth and going to bed, in the time it takes you to get home from work, in the region of your mind not occupied by monotony, create art. Irrespective of the apathy the world will show to your artistry, curate the life you deserve and create the art that matches. Be an artist Isaac would respect. I implore you to be an artist — even if just for yourself.


[1] American off-Broadway rock musical by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford

[2] Whether that art is consumable in its current form to its contemporaries is another question.

[3] Since everyone is an artist, this number counts upwards of seven billion.

[4] Meaning the abstract 7 billion of us. Or, more honestly just those in North America and Europe.

Euro-amerigocentrism at work here, folks.

[5] I am sorry

[6] Banksy sucks

[7] Wes Anderson isn’t dead, Banksy might be - who even knows.

[8] Unrelated

[9] Without realizing the obvious hypocrisy in anti-art poetry.

[10] I’ve seen it; it’s fantastic.

OpinionRachel Kubrick