What is art? And what does it cost?

All art, arguably, is a partial self-portrait of its creator at that moment in time. No matter the medium, look or listen closely enough and one can learn something intimate about the artist.

Years ago while going through a particularly rough time, I endeavored to memorialize, by photographing, those people throughout my life who were meaningful and had a profound impact on me. They were with me (some in spirit, others in reality) to that point and helped me get through it.

In creating this body of work, I attempted to reveal something about the subject that also addressed their influence on me. By and large, it was successful. Each person’s portrait was unique from the others. Some were humorous, others quizzical, a few ambivalent, and a couple displayed discomforting elements. All I believe were honest portraits – both of the subject and myself. All but one of the subjects approved their portrait.

That one who didn’t cost me a friendship that had endured for twenty-odd years. What was once a close, sometimes raucous relationship had become casually indifferent. It was heart-breaking. None of the portraits were meant to be demeaning or injurious, yet one of the subjects felt offended by their portrayal. What was displayed in that image was accurate on how both of us were entering a similar phase in our lives. Was it too accurate? Was the mirror too honest? I still don’t know.

What I do know is that piece of well-intended art cost me a valuable friend. And that’s a cost then and now I did not want to pay. Like the cliche, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”, the intent was good, the result, not so much.

It’s never done.

Ask any artist if they’re satisfied with the work they’ve created. Chances are they’ll say “no”. It’s also a good bet that while creating that piece, they’ll wonder if it’ll ever be finished. Most artists I know struggle to put the brush, camera, or pen down and accept that it’s finished. Truthfully, it’s never finished.

That painting on your wall may not be finished as far as the artist is concerned, but there it is, just the same. The book you’re reading is the work of countless hours of writing, editing, writing some more, and then editing once again. Hopefully, you’re enjoying it. And yet upon reading it in published form, the author may look at it and shudder, thinking she/he should have done it this way instead.

Still, at some point, we have to let it go, for better or worse and the critic’s opinions.

As my new book has been on the shelves for two months now, I look back and see things I missed during its creation. If only I had… Right?

Well, it’s out there. Nothing can be done about it. That’s as it should be.

So, without anything else to do, I’ve started on a new book. Let’s hope I can finish this one.