Thursday, August 15, 2019

How to be an Artist: Wisdom from Toni Morrison

Our public school students had their first day of classes yesterday.  By this time next week, my spouse and I will be back to class, which means I need to get some dates typed into course shells and change the settings across the course shells.

The summer is zooming to a close, even though we will still have summery weather for many months.

My college of primary employment is on a strange quarter system, which will end in mid-September.  Here, too, time races by.  We will be done before we know it. 

Yesterday was an interesting change of pace.  I subbed for a teacher, which involved overseeing tests, so I had time to read.  I forgot that I was going to sub, so I didn't bring a book.  Happily, I have plenty of books in the office.

I keep Toni Morrison's The Source of Self-Regard in the office because it's easy to dip in and out of, even though the essays aren't exactly zippy reading.  It's interesting to read her essays which sometimes repeat language word for word--intriguing to know that Morrison reused images in different speeches and public addresses.  It's powerful language, well worth repeating.

As I've been reading through the book, I've wondered how she decided what to preserve in print and what to let go of.  I've had this on the brain in terms of visual artists too.  This article in The New York Times examines artist's studios and archives and asks what should be saved and what will be lost.  It's a fascinating question.

Morrison has much to say about the work of being an artist in this repressive society.  Many of her essays that I've read so far were written in the 1980's, but they still have much to say to us.  She's not as concerned about what we should save, but how we should be creating.

Here's a quote, which seems perfect for this week of back to school pictures and artistic longings of all sorts:

"Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be. Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstance. Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last. My faith in art rivals my admiration for any other discourse" (p. 53).

No comments: