Every once in a while, we all find ourselves in need of a little help. No matter what level of society we find ourselves in, we all need the support of our family and friends. We all need help, there’s no shame in it. It’s just a fact of life.
Wolves at the door
Artists tend to wait until the wolves are at the door to ask for any assistance. We try and avoid the pain of requesting help as long as possible, hoping for a positive outcome so we may avoid having to ask. Gloria Steinem is absolutely right. The pain of being misunderstood by people we respect and care deeply about is unbearable.
One would think that families would support their creative offspring unconditionally. We have all witnessed misty-eyed parents admiring their prodigy’s creative expression at concerts, exhibitions and dance recitals. This outpouring of support may be true when the children live at home or early on in their education.
Sooner and certainly not later, a child artist will get cut off when it is determined that they have had enough “fun” and that they need a good dose of reality. Get your head out of the clouds, they are told. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Chains not strings
Even when there is some help, purse strings usually come with chains, not strings. Artists will get cut off for a variety of reasons. Claude Monet got cut off when he chose Camille as a partner and wife. His family determined that she just wasn’t good enough for him. Even when she lay dying a horribly painful death, and Claude couldn’t afford the painkillers needed to relieve Camille from her suffering, his family still refused to help him out in any way. Leave her, and the money will flow again, his father told him many times.
Modigliani’s common-law wife lost the support of her family when she decided to live with the artist. Even the birth of their first grandchild didn’t seem to soften their heart. By not helping her and their child, they weren’t helping him. It was only upon Modigliani’s death did they accept their pregnant daughter back under certain conditions. She was so distraught and perhaps under such a great deal of family pressure that she threw herself off the roof of her family home nine months pregnant, killing both herself and her unborn child. Stories like these have been commonplace throughout the history of art. The people that society now admires, actors, musicians, artists, dancers, poets and writers, all seem to suffer the same fates.
Get a job
What most people don’t realize is that most artists already have other jobs. The fact is, is that many of us are art educators. Teaching is another field filled with underpaid and unappreciated individuals, perhaps because most of these artists and art teachers are women. I have worked in many art schools and community centers over the years, and I can attest that there are more unpaid hours than paid ones. If you complain, the administrator docks your hours and delays your check.
It comes at a very steep cost.
Like every other artist, present or past, it would appear that an insistence to keep standing at an easel comes at a very high price. Artists seem to always end up with the short end of the stick. As a student of art history, I am not surprised one bit by my own fate.
Do what you love
I see no reason why not to pursue what I love. Life, after all, is way too short not to be happy at our “job.” I often think of artists and friends whose creative lives were tragically brief. I am also aware of my own mortality and the brevity of my own life.
Better to be pursuing my passion while I still can, even at great personal cost.
Quote of the day:
“Being misunderstood by people whose opinions you value is absolutely the most painful.”
~ Gloria Steinem ~