Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The Forward Momentum of Failure
Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 6: " Another Kind of Language"
section 2: "The Forward Momentum of Failure"
It's probably safe to say that we've all experienced "failure" in one form or another when it comes to producing art, which is a risky enterprise. And, it's probably true that most of us learn from our failures after we've overcome the disappointments they bring. In this section of her book, Richmond emphasizes the importance of risk in making art. She writes: risk, I believe, is a place between unsure and sure, where you are in unknown territory, you can't see what's around the corner, and yet you continue, full speed ahead.
She cites Robert Rauschenberg, who said: "I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop. At the time that I am bored or understand - I use those words interchangeably - another appetite has formed." Richmond notes here that Rauschenberg isn't just confronting uncertainty, he is sustaining uncertainty. In my opinion, that takes a lots of guts and confidence. As corny as this seems, it reminds me of the lyrics to Rodgers and Hammerstein's song from Carousel:
When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.
Doesn't that reflect the journey of the undaunted spirit of the artist?
Back to Richmond's book: This section is about the "forward momentum of failure" Wendy stresses the importance of the sum of our mistakes in the creative process.There is a forward directionality to it if we continue to take risks and and use them. Here, she cites Picasso, who said "My pictures are often made by a sum of destructions." I'm also reminded of something Helen van Wyck always said "My paintings are the record of a series of corrections."
Richmond concludes this section on a positive note: how refreshing it would be to look forward to failure! Imagine using it as a momentum to propel your work further.
And so it is that risk and failure pave the road to our success in art. Walk on, my friends!