voluntary self-exposure

It has been famously said many times over that artists are chronically discontent because we see the world as it should be, rather than as it is.  In my life, I have found that perspective exhilarating.  It may be optimism or foolishness that inspires this reaction to unrealized ideas, but I cannot believe that vision causes unhappiness.  Rather, it is the meeting point of vision and reality, and the moment when reality obliterates vision, which so exhaust us. 

All art-making is a risk.  It requires us to expose a part of ourselves to be judged by others, and to go deep within to find unanswered questions in our hearts.  If there is a measure of artistry, perhaps it is the zeal with which a person either accepts or dismisses this challenge.  It is whether a person judges self-actualization to be worth the exposure, rejection, failure, and loneliness it may demand.

I have grown to value risk in my life.  I have learned to seek (or sometimes just agree to) new experiences and daunting challenges, and now that I've begun to live like this, I realize how long and deeply I mired myself in that old myth: "security."  Calculated leaps are not risks, though they may be wide and treacherous.  Risks are leaps we take even when we cannot see the other side. 

I do think art-making is inherently optimistic.  I think creative people create because their objects and experiences improve their worlds, even if, despite the ultimate hope for connection, they don't touch any others.  Chuck Klosterman wrote:

"Art and love are the same thing: It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

That is a dangerous vision to have in a culture which values all the grand myths: privacy, individuality, self-reliance.  To say to someone, "I have created this thing from my self, and I hope it reaches out to you and lifts you out of your self, and we can have some sort of communion in the midst of all this lunacy" -- that is a risk, and it is terrifying.  The measure of artistry is whether one decides that is a risk worth taking. 

On some days, it is difficult to answer in the affirmative.  The fact of living confounds the thrill of vision, and we are left, as Nabokov wrote, "to breathe the dust of this painted life."  But contrived analyses of risk and reward are put to shame when the moment arrives: we see ourselves in something that is not us, and we see someone else looking right back.