I was thinking recently about all of the artists I’ve known in my life– both friends and family. It seems, regardless of the type of artist they were (writer, musician, comedian, etc.) they all had at least one thing in common: they suffered from bouts of depression.
There seems to be this “curse” for most (maybe all) artists in which consistent happiness is an elusive, ethereal thing that can sometimes be seen but never held onto. Like a puff of smoke, it passes through their fingers– felt, touched, but never held intact for long.
One only needs to look at the careers of famous artists as illustrations of this phenomena– Kurt Cobain, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, just to name a few that come to mind.
I’m certainly not immune to this myself, having gone through periodic bouts of it throughout my life, but the question that comes to my mind is– WHY?
Why do so many artists suffer from the companionship of this unseen friend? It certainly is not due to the measure of an artist’s success as even successful/famous artists are susceptible to it (just look at the artists list above.)
Could it be that this hunger to create art is not satiated even upon its completed inception? That the manifestation itself is not enough of a reward? I’m not sure that’s the case for all artists. There are indeed artists that are quite happy at the end of their “performance.”
But perhaps for many there is this unanswered question, this unsatisfied hunger that exists at the periphery of art’s completion. Maybe the same question that has plagued many humans throughout the centuries– is this all there is? Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?
In pondering this question, one may find themselves in this special place that I will call “the zone.” It’s a place that seems to be both a pit of despair and a sanctuary of creation. This zone seems to be when the most beautiful art is sprayed onto the canvas from the artist’s mind. So ironic that such an ugly place can create such beautiful art.
That zone, hunger or whatever you want to call it, is the wellspring of art. But like the masks of comedy and tragedy, there is a duality to it that hides to the public its “other” face. Tragically, we’ve seen what that other face can look like if left unchecked (artist list above.)
So when you see an artist perform– in cinema, in prose, on the stage, or from your music streaming service… remember, they may be producing this by dancing with that other ugly face in “the zone.” Hopefully, it’s a dance partner that they can keep at bay when the music stops.
Till my next musing…