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Artsy vs Artistic

"Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there
is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason."
GK. Chesterton from Orthodoxy Ch. 2: The Maniac

The Contemporary Artist.
The Contemporary Artist

I am sick of the contemporary artist.  The type of artist who takes pride in being morose, the kind that orders a soy latte, with a side of tofu, colors his/her hair pink or purple, has various body piercings and tattoos, protests in the Occupy Wall street movement while living in his/her parent's basement; the kind that doesn't shower more than twice a week, is perpetually depressed and sits by him/herself in a dark corner criticizing the world, but doing nothing to improve it. Unfortunately I have known many "artsy" artists who fit this profile perfectly.  I am not trying to kill self expression.  It is just that I have known many of these people.

For those of you that don't know I studied classical guitar at a conservatory in New York.  Art, specifically music has been something very important to me. However, while I was there I couldn't help to notice how so many of my colleagues were content in being depressed, not using their ability as a transcendent gift, but instead using their talents as a way of glorifying their narrow, ego centric view. I even began to question my motives for becoming a musician.  I didn't want to be a depressed, self centered artist.  I wanted to be...normal.  

There is nothing wrong in being in artist.  However, there is something tragically wrong in being a depressed artist.  Art is supposed to inspire, to uplift, to bring a transcendent reality to our everyday life. I love Chesterton's image of the small circle.  An insane person keeps doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.  The artsy person does the same replaying the same circular, limited worldview over and over through their art.  

So What is "True" Art?

I can write thousands of pages on this subject but I still wouldn't begin to even scratch the surface. My intention is not to write a lengthy magna carta of art.  My intention is to simply differentiate between the faux artist and the real artist.

I love Chesterton's distinction how the true artist is a very sane person even "business like" in his demeanor.  Why is this so?   The answer is very simple, the true artist believes in objective reality; that ultimate reality being God as Chesterton elegantly explains,

"Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity...He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that...It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand." Chapter II
Does this mean that only those who believe in God can create great art?  Of course not.  It would be extremely short sighted on my end to believe this because some of the greatest masterpieces have been created by atheists and non believers. The distinction that I am making instead is that the atheist when creating the masterpiece, weather knowing it or not was expressing an objective truth through their art. The atheist, to coin a phrase from Chesterton was drinking from the dregs of "mysticism."  Whereas the phony artsy person only creates art that glorifies his/her subjective reality. 


J.S. Bach: The Sane Artist
It is so refreshing each time I see a sane artist.  The type of artist who doesn't wear their art on their sleeves, the kind that finishes their work and moves on; the kind that can have a family, attend a ball game, fix a leaking pipe, and even laugh.  There is something great about the artist who is unassuming, humble, and views their talent in the proper perspective.  The true artist ultimately realizes that his/her gift is something given to him/her from above.  It is a borrowed reality, not a permanent reality.   The true artist knows this instinctively and uses his/her talents to glorify the mysterious, mystical reality of God.


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