Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Serious Artist

I had a meeting today with the director of a production I've been working on.  We've met several times and the process, for the most part, has been very smooth  Except for three characters.  These three characters that in reality should have been the easiest to design because they're secondary characters with no story arc.  That is to say when we reach the end of the play, their motivation has not changed during the events of the play.

After a multitude of meetings, we had the final costume rendering presentation yesterday. I showed him the costumes for everyone in the show, including these three.  I had said that this was the final meeting before we began to move forward with constructing and purchasing the clothes.  It was a simple meeting, and despite going over an hour, he determined easily that he loved the costumes.  His words, not mine, "I love it all," he said.  Yay! Success.

This morning I arrived to my office to find two emails from this director, written at 1:45 AM and 1:53 AM respectively. The emails basically said he was having second thoughts about the trio and could he please come in for yet another meeting so that I could walk him through their costumes once again and reassure him.  Now, I'm a bit disgruntled by this because it means we cannot start working on the costumes after all, but I agree.

He arrives in my office and sure enough, he's every picture the indecisive director. After going over all three costumes again and answering all his questions, again. He agrees again that he loves all the costumes.  Knowing that I'd been through this twice already, I decide to address the fact that this is the third time I've needed to meet with him to reassure him, which is slowing down the construction process. He immediately got defensive and said, "I think, you know, that if I have a feeling in my gut that something might be wrong, I should be able to come in and get reassurance from you anytime."

Realizing that I was ultimately going to get nowhere in this arguement, I agreed, but I wanted to say, "No, I do not have to reassure you about decisions you make because I'm not your mother, or your wife.   If you don't like something I've designed, just say so. I am not emotionally attached to my work. My designs aren't my babies, and my "art" isn't my life.  So if you don't like one thing, or any of it, just say so, because the whining and hesitating only irritates me, as does you showing up every forty eight hours to have your ego stroked....er, I mean your decisions reassured."

But I didn't say any of that.

When he said that the show is an ensemble piece where every character is equally important and the female title character is just one of many stories, I didn't say anything, but I wanted to say that he didn't have a freakin' clue.  This play is a major piece of modern feminist literature. A play that gives a voice --and a choice-- to a woman that in previous tellings of the same story, didn't even have a single line.

"Pick your battles," I heard my mother say.

Finally, before he left, this director said, "You know, I'm a serious artist, so I eat and sleep and live with something so much that it becomes a part of me, it's in my blood and I care about the piece so much that I want it to be perfect. I get emotional because I'm close to the project." He had also previously stated that he would be abstaining from alcohol for the duration of the creative process so he could focus completely on the project and not be distracted.  All of this was said with that kind of tone that intimates  I might not be a "serious artist."

Okay, so because I choose leave all this theater work at the office to go home and watch shows like Downton Abbey while eating a bowl of Special K, or talk on the phone, or play music-- instead of marinating in this production 24/7 while only eating Quinoa and doing yoga-- I'm not a serious artist??

"You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," I heard my grandma say.

As an artist myself I find it ridiculous that other artists think and behave like this.  That somehow in order to be taken seriously they have to make these inane and sometimes radical choices in life as if that makes them somehow more dedicated to the "art" than someone like me, more in contact with the world than me, or more in tune with human emotion. It makes no sense, has no basis in reality. Furthermore, emailing coworkers in the middle of the night and dropping by to have your neurosis eased is unprofessional.

I love what I do, but you know what? I also love skiing, and going to movies, and drinking a really great bottle of wine, and eating a really great restaurant, reading a great book, going to a symphony, and talking about politics or literature or other art related things that I'm not directly involved in.  I find non-artistic things fascinating.  I sat on the plane today with a guy who is in restaurant management and I riddled him with questions about it.  I recently met a Veterinarian for Thoroughbred horses. He's basically a vet for race horses. Amazing!  Every time I visit my dentist I learn more about dentistry and I'm fascinated.  In each of these interactions do I attempt to show my superiority because I'm an artist? Heck no. First of all because being an artist doesn't make me superior to anyone, and also because I believe that all of the things I do that are not "art" actually makes me a better artist.  I'm an outstanding Costume Designer, but I'm also a great teacher, a good friend, and a decent skier. I also have really great teeth and a greater understanding of what I need to do to keep them that way, and perhaps most importantly, I have learned how to spot a race horse that is particularly healthy and likely to win, thus potentially making me a better gambler.  Not sure that's an improvement, but it's going to make visiting racetracks more fun!!

So if being a Serious Artist means that I have to take myself way too seriously and develop weird habits so that I can feel superior others, or constantly reach out for approval, I'll take being a non-serious artist, thanks.

Somebody pass the Special K.

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