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American History
Smithsonian Art Train, March 2001


Art Train USA

When an artist studies and reads about the blue period of Picasso, the depression of Van Gogh, or any of the other artists who have gone through their own grief stages there is a unity and understanding between minds. Why? My feelings are there is a compatibility in thinking because of all the shared emotions involved. For instance, who directed forces to guide a person to a fire and possession as to the need to dip into the world of the artist. Every factor to lead an innocent child, young adult and a more mature person to the beauty, the torment, the joys, even the agonies of being bound to these skills, love of life, these colors, and this need to see and record the delicate vibrance around, every factor is stamped on the artist's psychic. Maybe it was as a child with the innocent touching of the oil tubes reserved for another older person's use might have been a first temptation. Maybe the march through the classes gave them the opportunity to always wish for the assigned art projects, not to matter the talent was undeveloped. But then, why would the person continue to study in every opportunity and under every tutor? Why would they continue? The rewards are not to come to the average, the mediocre and the less than superb. Every artist I know has work stacked here and there all about them in their home, studio and in the homes of friends, relatives, even strangers. This doesn't seem to deter that artist.

They go forward; yet learning, and forever at awe of the world around, recording, recording, recording, until all at once the weight falls upon them as to what seems to be mostly a gigantic futility of in it all. It is true, for a moment, their audience can be lifted, but only for a moment. AS these artists view another's work, once in a while, a spark of encouragement can be felt much like the unnamed understanding one has for the work of Andrew Wyeth in Christine's World. The girl, Christine, who is stretched out, alone in a wheatfield, is not named as being handicapped but if one is sensitive, somehow the feeling is transmitted. The simple fact that the artist is someone who sees, feels, and understands is enough to give relief to the heavy hearted person viewing the work. Such feelings can go a long way to encourage an artist, or anyone, to continue on with life, living, and a wish to triumph over their challenges.

Of course, there is the starving artist, syndrome. All the awards, prizes, whatever, measure up to zero when it comes right down to true appreciation. Something like, "put your money where your mouth is," sort of mentality. Monetary rewards are not what the artist works toward. This isn't the whole meat of the sandwich. However, like one artist I know, who said, "any artist who tells you he (or she) is not working for money is telling you a lie," and to this I am inclined to agree, up to a point. The gratification of seeing a light go on in a person's eyes when their face, a moment before, was heavy with sadness can not be overlooked. Also, for a young person to all at once grasp, through art, a way to cope with their insecure feeling centered on themselves, changing them so they are, all at once able to open up, seeing a great world around them is too, worth everything and all the labor. These are certainly not the monetary rewards necessary, but this can salve the crushed hopes an artist, like any normal human, has as far as being able to peddle their wares.

Since the word labor has come out maybe we can pursue this thought a bit. The passion, the inspiration, the will to bring birth to a new idea does not respect an artist's body. This flame does not care that the artist will battle through to the finish, despite the tired feeling gripping them. The artist will drive through, pushing, working until they come to a point where they have finished and this maybe only one segment of the total piece. There was the successful artist, Salvador Dali, who owned a villa setting on the edge of the Mediterranean. His method to throw off the extreme tense tiredness he felt after completing his work was to walk down steps into the water for a swim, which was, no doubt, most pleasurable. The starving artist can only stand under a hot shower to scrub paint from their body while hoping to also relieve tension and then to drop exhausted into a deep forgiving sleep.

Art Train USA

All these circumstances can become heavier to rest on drooping shoulders of artists who have lost the strength of youth and through trials of failing health these elements become very real, thus the understanding for Picasso's blue period and so on and so forth as concerning other artists, Van Gogh, etc. March 200l was seeing all of this which seemed to creep quietly; yet with determination to rest securely upon some who were teachers of art struggling to bring their dedicated beliefs to their students. At this moment, equally with strength and determination the Smithsonian Art Train pulled into Ponca City, Oklahoma. This Art Train was a tribute to the artists who worked to do the designing and drawing of the plans for the space projects. While one walked through the train seeing the strength of these artists who presented the many projects which lead to the achievements of those who mastered the spectacular journey and was stepping into space, there was all at once a wish to beg forgiveness for weakness in not happily continuing on with that sweet duty one has as an artist.

The walking through of many people who were there as teachers, children, artists, great and humble, senators, city officials, ranchers, mothers, fathers and on and on, this was a time when they could rise above their problems, come away from their heaviness of living for a few moments. Certainly, no one was going to be impolite, even if they for some reason or another was not in tune with the project and there were these, but this too was an emotion and possibly this could pull them from some personal despair. Would this give them the will to fight, to struggle, and to keep trying. I believe so.

All and all it was a wonderful experience for this artist. The years of hard work, the struggling to always improve, the will to rise above the failures, somehow, was all gone for the moment. To see the little families going through, ours included, looking about them with a latent but potential striking of a spark of understanding was way far more worth the efforts, yes even drudgery, years of hard work, involved.


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