The Persistence of Art

How Art Shapes Our Life

Sal MaccaroneJune 7, 2012 

I would like to dedicate this article to my fellow artisans -- of all persuasions -- who are experiencing turmoil due to unfriendly economic times. I have been through more than one "down-turn" during my 40 year career, and while this one is particularly hard on the arts, here are some thoughts that can help us to keep focused.

It is very difficult to explain how the artistic mentality works. Words like determined, unwavering, steadfast, resolute and especially persistence are what first come to mind. Persistence, as it applies to the personality of an artisan, means: a firm, almost obstinate course regardless of difficulty, economics, opposition, or discouragement. That is hard to do sometimes. But remember, true unwavering and persistent artists do their work not for money, but because they must. Even when the economic mentality is not especially attuned to art. Yes, artisans, like everyone, need money to survive, but to the true artisan money is usually only seen as a tool.

Now, if we use the word persistence as it applies to actual artworks, the definition would go something like this: "a continuance of an effect after the cause, (the artist), is removed."

History has shown us over and over how an effect can linger long after its cause is gone. For example, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), who was one of the fathers of the Modern Art Movement, could not help but to paint. He only sold a few paintings during his lifetime, and those were mostly to his brother. But, he persisted because painting was his release, somehow taking art to a whole new level in the process. Sadly, he was overcome mentally by the economics of his time, died young as a result and never realized the importance of his work. Presently, three of the 10 most valuable paintings in the world were done by Vincent Van Gogh. Those three paintings alone have a combined value of $400 million in today's money.

Then, I think about those artists throughout history who have been forbidden to work by some authority for one reason or another, (i.e. Nazi Germany, Communist China). Imagine, unable to do creative work at all? Although, suppression of the arts altogether usually causes revolution, which ironically begins within the arts. In other words, artisans have always found a way to communicate through their work and change history in spite of being told not to.

On a much happier note, even a great artist like Walt Disney (1901-1966) had to persist every step of the way. He never cared about the time or money that it would take to accomplish whatever he was working on. He believed in himself, his work and his own ideas while remaining happy in the process. Always "out-on-a-limb" with the costs of his projects, he oftentimes lost money in the process.

Even after he was the most recognized movie producer in the world he still had hurdles to jump. But, just think about the accomplishments and the many benefits to the world. The first cartoon with sound (1928); the first cartoon in color (1932); the first full-length animated feature (1937); the first movie studio to embrace television (1954); and, lets not forget his persistence regarding an idea he had for a theme park.

The point is, it is not the artist that is so important, it is the contributions made by the artist. In other words, what we leave behind. The economy and current mindset of the masses will change, it always does, so those things should not be allowed to put a damper on thinking, or doing ones craft. Just remember, some of the best ideas have been born during, or because of hard times.

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