Sunday, June 24, 2007


My favorite author: Joyce Carol Oates. I am devouring her vast catalogue as quickly as I can but she produces at a breakneck speed, so that each time I set one volume down, there's a shiny new tome to be discovered.

My favorite collective of musical conduits: Red Hot Chili Peppers. I devour their vast catalogue as well, repeatedly, mostly because it inspires me to keep moving when my resolve is flagging.

There is a point here, and it's this: that these two seemingly divergent indulgences (high-brow academic literary icon vs. funk rock iconic anti-heroes) have something in common: they are fearless.

I find it attractive, I think, in that it's what I lack.

Reading Oates and considering the Chili Pepper flow I am, every now and again, taken aback. Stopped short. Frankly, in my unintentionally middle American sensibility, shocked to my core.

I hate that. And then, I love it.

Because, as an artist, I hold back. Primarily due to fear. Fear of being judged, fear of offending, fear of putting myself or others in an uncomfortable position. It's the anti-Christ for artists, really, that fear, because there is no salvation for an artist who is afraid to express herself wholey and completely. Without constraint.

Censorship is rooted, of course, in that same fear. The fear of being put in the position of judging, the fear of being offended, being in an uncomfortable position.

Artists who are not afraid to use words and paint scenarios, cutting words and horrific scenarios, are unfettered. Unstoppable. Free. That's why folks like Oates, and the Peppers, and Damien Hirst, rise to the surface. They are fearless.

They rattle me, and yet I keep going back to the fold because I crave it. Because I covet it.

Because I want to be free, too.

Something to think about: the genius of an artist to rattle the global cage AND amass a $258 million fortune through his art. Is the real shock value in the art itself, or the $$$ it draws? Regardless, Damien Hirst, with his preserved shark corpse, rainbow pill cabinet, and diamond-studded skull, among others, is my new hero.

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