It is humbling and also uplifting. It smashes, or maybe melts away, disintegrates an existing, limiting world view and gives birth to a new one that is much more appropriate, informed, useful.
For some reason, I just remembered one that I got while I was at art school in Sydney in the early eighties.
One of the reasons that art school was great was that there were a lot of freaks and weirdos in attendance. Not in an extreme way (mostly) but everyone certainly had a quirkiness to them. The other really cool thing is that, at least in those days, at that school, it was all about doing stuff, making stuff, creating. So you got to know people through their work. We showed each other who we are through our expressions. Thinking about it now, it's a pretty damn awesome way of doing things. And the goal, the goal is not to be the best, the coolest or the most whatever... the goal is to be true to yourself. To cut through shit and put soul into it. Nobody was trying to outdo anyone else. There was heaps of support and encouragement but not too cheery or overt, certainly not put-on or motivated by anything artificial. Everyone was pretty chilled, just being themselves and through a natural order of things, things fell into place.
Society these days is not like this enough. Too many are motivated by money, fame, attention, status. But really, all that is phooey!
Yes, you heard me. Phooey!
I have never used that word before and I like it. I like to believe that I have always wanted to and was just waiting for the right moment to present itself. And it has. Just now.
What really rocks, what actually is of substance, of lasting meaning, or enduring value is more real stuff, baby. Stuff like .... relationships, showing care, connecting, having adventures big and small, love, kindness.... you hear me, I know you do. All that stuff. It used to predominate, but it is being sounded out by the roar of media bullshit.
Of course, we don't really believe it, not fully, all that crap, but it's a pity to have so much INTERFERENCE happening, so much glitzy, shimmering, desire and craving creating CRAP bombarding us from all angles. It is distracting. And rather time wasting. Paper thin, though. Without substance.
Anyway... back in the day... (let the old codger speak)... I was lucky enough to spend three years in an institution that was fully into the dynamic and glorious pursuit of ART in all it's wonderful forms.... from printmaking to sculpture, to line drawing to B&W film photography, to painting and a little bit of art history. The people, mostly kids just like me in their late teens and early twenties, were the best part of it all. The teachers, too, back in those days, were all practicing, exhibiting artists. They didn't just talk the talk - in fact, some hardly spoke much at all - they lead by example.
And, of course, we all learnt, grew, from watching and sharing classes and creations with each other.
So, there was this one guy called Sid. He was a little older. Maybe early thirties. He was a blue collar worker. Used to be a bricky. He was real Aussie; down to earth, kept it simple, straight forward. He was a gentle man and even seemed a bit simple at times. Although, he wasn't. He was lucid and passionate and devoted to art. He left behind his job and took a big chance by coming to art school. Even amongst a collection of not-fitter-inners, he didn't quite fit in. He was a nice guy, though, and was treated with respect but some of his early art attempts were.... I don't know... you know... I guess kind of immature and under-formed. So once in a while there were a few snickers. He didn't seem to be cut out for it. And yet, there he was plugging away. Enjoying himself.
He and I got on pretty well. We are both the type to get along with most anyway. But it was more of a mutual respect thing than a friendship.
I have got to admit that I never expected that Sid's pursuit, as devoted and dedicated and invested as it was, would lead anywhere. He seemed to be missing a few of the essentials, some connectors. He was a bricklayer, after all. I did admire his guts to chuck that in and give the art a go, though.
Year one ends and we each choose a major for second year. Sid chose painting. I chose photography. For some reason, in those days, though, photography was only two years, whereas painting was three. I hadn't properly realised this, so just before the end of year two, I put foward my case to the head of school and the painting group leader, that I switch over to painting and go into year three, effectively doing a double major. No one had ever tried it before, and I was very keen and the dudes were pretty mellow and not that interested in sticking to rules, so they said OK. I was elated, of course. Year three you get your own studio space, a few square meters each, in this big old building. There was hardly any instruction. We all just did our own practice. We painted. All day, every day, for a year. And it was awesome. The rest of the gang accepted me immediately, knew me from year one, and were happy to have some fresh flavour. I loved that year. We were young artists! It felt beautiful!
Anyway, here's the thing... Sid couldn't do year three, for some reason. A medical thing with his new wife or something. But he did complete year two in painting.
At the end of year two there was a showing. Everyone got to chuck their works up for exhibition. All the buildings were bursting with fresh, zestful works. I recall walking through it all and being surprised, delighted and inspired. More specifically, I recall walking round a corner and seeing three large paintings on canvas. They were abstract. Big block shapes, rectangular. Textured, multicoloured pieces. I was impressed. They were truly magnificent paintings. Surely, these weren't done by a student! There was a confidence to them, a sure handedness, that extra special something that makes some artworks transformational, elevated. I was transfixed by them. As were many others. After a prolonged staring session, I moved in closer to little tag to the side. The name was familiar. It was him: Sid.
He had broken through! He had found his way. He made it work. He expressed his true self with paint. They were giant bricks!! OMG. I will never forget it. It was close to a miracle. Who would have thought he had it in him. A true artist. Sid. Good on ya, Sid. Wherever you are. You inspired me, mate. Awesome. You broke through. Bravo!