This was a quick one-page paper written for one of my classes, which has a wonderful name: "Tree of Brilliant Fruit: Finding Spiritual Wisdom Through the Arts." I'm sharing the paper here because the book was interesting, I'm open to other folks' interpretations, it's fun, and I like sharing writing. I can probably come up with more excuses reasons if under duress… :)

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cribbed from the class syllabus:

Faith: To create art in any form requires faith. As well as skills and a certain degree of confidence, the process of making art in any form requires determination, loyalty, and repeated efforts, even in the face of temporary failures; this is faith in the creation itself. Ultimately the artist serves the creation. (see James Lord, Giacometti's Portrait)

I strongly agree with the description of artistic faith paraphrased above, as it closely matches my personal experience in the spiritual creation of art. Further, as was noted in class, I feel having faith in one's artistic endeavors is a form of honoring both the work and the model. Self-confidence and self-faith are, in my experience, mutually supportive emotions, and it is they which cause the artist to keep determinedly trying, even if the first (or second, or third) effort is not perfect.

Indeed, the search for artistic perfection is, I'm starting to believe, a psychological bugaboo. Watching children at play with paper, paint, and crayons is one of the best examples I know of the ego-less joy of truly spiritual artistic creation. Somehow, though, by adulthood we've been taught to get in our own way; to tangle ourselves up in the self-important uncertainty, the arrogance and self-hatred apparently required within the search for artistic perfection. When did we set in place this pointless hierarchy, where if we do not live up to culturally-taught concepts of beauty, then somehow our most fervently heartfelt creations are worthless — because someone else says so? Whatever happened to the belief that the creation of art was the true spiritual process?

If one has no confidence or respect for oneself, if there is self-hatred, then it is easy to disparage both one's work and the model as well. Equally I believe feeling insecure and using passive-aggressive whining or self-denigration to cadge compliments and become the center of attention is also a form of dishonoring oneself, the artistic creation, the model — the entire process, in fact. I cannot find spirituality or enlightenment in such behavior. It is an indicator of an unhealthy relationship, not one that should be honored and maintained. I can see friends trying to assist someone out of such behavior, but while that does keep the relationship in existence, it is also an attempt to change and improve it.

Consequently, after reading A Giacometti Portrait, it was not Giacometti who I felt was the true artist — it was James Lord. Giacometti spends most of his time talking about how worthless his work is: it is impossible, he can't do anything,everything must be destroyed, he has to start over completely, it's no good, he's going to give up painting forever — necessitating constant support and reassurance from his brother, his wife, and his model. As Lord notes, Giacometti also puts off working even when people are patiently waiting on him, or is spiteful and destructive towards artwork others have admired. Frankly, I found the man's behavior astonishingly childish.

Lord, however, remains loyal within the relationship, never losing faith. Not only does he sit completely still while keeping the artist entertained with conversation and encouragement, and do his best to encourage Giacometti to stop precisely when the best work is done and before everything is destroyed yet again — but Lord also carefully takes notes of the entire process, skillfully writing it all down in a clear and eminently readable book. On top of that, he adds fascinating musings on the nature of the relationship between artist and model. I believe this is an excellent example of the artist serving the creation: Lord certainly suffered and work hard for the experiences which inspired the creation of this fascinating little book.

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