AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CLASS ON THE LAST DAY OF CLASS
The last day of class is always depressing for me. The feeling is especially acute today because we have lived and worked together closely for the better part of the month.
You naturally appraised your success by the number of paintings you finished to your satisfaction. I was not as interested in your paintings as much as I was in you. It is your growth and improvement that is important to me. If the painting failed, did you fail with it? If the painting succeeded, how did that success manifest itself in your behavior? It is possible, you know, to produce a successful product and to fail inside.”
A true artist does not merely try to make objects of art. He is working out ideas and seeking solutions to the enigma of life. He does not count the number of hours he spends or the canvases he uses. He only notes his progress toward an answer or a solution.
I think that people are better than products and that artists are more important than their art. No matter how great or interesting a painting may be, I always regard its creator as greater and more engaging.
Art is alive when it produces conflict and is still unresolved. Modern art is alive for us because it is still in the process of becoming. The play is still being improvised and we as actors or the audience are so involved in the plot or characterization that we cannot determine the end or the final act. We sit on the beach and argue heatedly about modern art, its faults and failures, its meanings and madness, its direction or lack of direction. We can only dwell on the achievements of the past; we can’t change them or relive them.
Yesterday, one of the group asked me a simple but alarming question. She said, “Mr. D’Amico, do you think I should continue painting, I mean seriously?” For a moment I could not answer her. Then I did and my answer was a question, “What do you want from art?” and I ask this question in turn of all of you, what does each and every one of you want from art? Is it the praise…and the glory?
The best that art can offer you already have, working with heart and your hands, turning a blank canvas into a creative statement, working side by side with others and feeling their encouragement. This is all that I can offer you, but its pleasures are infinite and everlasting. The other rewards? Well, I cannot say – they are part of the gamble of living.
At any rate, it was a good month – a long one but a short one too. I enjoyed every minute of it. If you don’t believe me, stop around Ashawagh Hall next July and see for yourself.
Victor D’Amico 1955