* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
I cannot even imagine the individual arts sufficiently distinct from one another. This admittedly exaggerated attitude might have its most acute origin in the fact that in my youth, I, quite inclined toward painting, had to decide in favor of another art so as not to be distracted. And thus I made this decision with a certain passionate exclusivity. Based on my experience, incidentally, every artist needs to consider for the sake of intensity his means of expression to be basically the only one possible while he is producing. For otherwise he could not easily suspect that this or that piece of world would not be expressible by his means at all and he would finally fall into that most interior gap between the individual arts, which is surely wide enough and could be genuinely bridged only by the vital tension of the great Renaissance masters. We are faced with the task of deciding purely, each one alone, on his one mode of expression, and for each creation that is meant to be achieved in this one area all support from the other arts is a weakening and a threat.
Ulrich Baer, editor, The Wisdom of Rilke
Comments are welcome!
A: In the mid-1980s I was in my early 30s, a lieutenant on active duty in the Navy, working a soul-crushing job as a computer analyst on the midnight shift in a Pentagon basement. It was literally and figuratively the lowest point of my life. Remembering the joyful Saturdays of my youth when I had studied with a local New Jersey painter, I enrolled in a drawing class at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. Initially I wasn’t very good, but it was wonderful to be around other women and a world away from the “warrior mentality” of the Pentagon. I was having fun! Soon I enrolled in more classes and became a very motivated full-time art student who worked nights at the Pentagon. As I studied and improved my skills, I discovered my preferred medium – soft pastel on sandpaper. Although I knew I had found my calling, for more than a year I agonized over whether or not to leave the Navy. Once I did decide, there was another delay. The Navy was experiencing a manpower shortage so Congress had enacted a stop-loss order, which prevented officers from resigning. I could only do what was allowed under the order. I submitted my resignation effective exactly one year later: on September 30, 1989. With Bryan’s (my late husband) support, I left the Navy that day. So I think of myself as having been a professional artist beginning on October 1, 1989. I should mention that I remained in the Navy Reserve for the next 14 years, working mainly at the Pentagon two days every month and two weeks each year (commuting between New York and Washington, DC after I moved in 1997). Finally on November 1, 2003, I officially retired as a Navy Commander.
Comments are welcome!