Tuesday, June 28, 2011
After ten days in Umbria and Rome (about which I will write soon), I returned to New York. I have two months ahead of me during which I am only going to focus on my own work and this feels like a true gift from the gods. I wanted, and kept, my calendar very empty. But I had one thing written on it for the day after I got back. "Prodigy of Color" at the Agora Gallery. I had read about Aelita Andre before leaving and her show was closing on Saturday. I had only a few hours to see it.
It was a hot afternoon as we set out and I was very tired. Jet-lagged, achy from the long flight. Not entirely in the best mood for some personal reasons and missing the pines, the light, the beauty at every corner of Rome.
New York seemed gray, dreary. Where was the piazza? The fountain I'd stared at for hours at a time. The macchiato and cornetti I savored each morning. But we pushed on to the gallery and there we entered the space where Aelita's work is being shown.
It is a room of vibrant colors, bright canvases with interesting compositions and playful objects (no surprise there) such as colored cotton balls, glitter, masks, and plastic farm animals glued on. I am going to be honest here. I can't say that I love the work. But I was, and am, utterly fascinated by the process.
Aelita Andre is an abstract expressionist who has had recent global success. When her work was shown to the director of the Agora gallery, he was immediately impressed and decided to represent her. He didn't know that she was four years old. But she is.
As an article about her in ARTisSpectrum says, Aelita paints from a preconscious place. She is not aware of her critics because she hasn't had any. She doesn't know what bad reviews are. And, what strikes me most, she isn't afraid of failure because she has no idea what failure is.
That is a notion that is difficult for any artist who is not nineteen (or four) years old to comprehend. To sit down to work and just allow your creative energies to flow. To not fear who will see it and what they might say. To never think of the market place. To inhabit a timeless space.
I know this sounds ridiculous but I wanted to see her work because, in part, I wanted to make this my summer goal - though already the notion of a goal implies intention and intention isn't what Aelita is about. She is about instinct. Intuition. Going with her gut. Unihibited. Completely and utterly unfettered. This is what she's about.
Larry jokingly likened her work to those elephant paintings which are also abstract and which duped one art critic into calling them a fresh vision. But in a sense why is it wrong to compare it to elephant art? Elephants have been shown to have high communication skills, lots of emotions, a work ethic, family ties, and are able to recognize themselves in mirrors (which is a sign of consciouness; dolphins and African grays can do this too and that's about it for the animal kingdom).
So why shouldn't an elephant, or a small child, paint from that preconscious place, unfettered, and, the most significant thing for me, unafraid?
Fear is a bad companion to wake up to or have to live with. At Sarah Lawrence graduation Ariana Huffington addressed this quite well. She said fear is like living with a bad roommate. She also said that failure isn't the opposite of success, but rather a step on the road to success (see post from May 23).
But what if, for the summer say, for just a few weeks of our life we eliminated all notions of success and failure. What if we like the Tahitians turn our notion of art into "doing the best we can." Or as Beckett wrote, fail better.
I don't know what's ahead for this little girl. I don't know if she'll be making art in ten or twenty years. I am going to amssume that her success now is a somewhat freakish, but real, thing. The beauty is she knows nothing (though she is said to admire Picasso and Dali). But she knows nothing of what the world can, and will, do to an artist's spirit.
Last night a friend shared with me a recent success. He was very happy about it and, for the first time, opened up to how difficult it had been. I told him, "We all have to go through something." It is not a straight shot to wherever we are.
Eventually we have to show our work to our editors, our agents, our galleries. There will be opinions and, yes, failures. But what if, just for a brief moment in time, we forget about time. We forget that things may or may not work out.
What if, as Aelita seems able to do, we just allow ourselves to have fun?
What if we go into our little rooms and make a mess and not worry, at least for now, about who is going to clean it up?