Happy New Year

If we don’t learn from history we will repeat our mistakes, or so we’re told, and I suppose this is in part why we’re compelled at year’s end to do overviews. At the moment we’re getting bombarded from all sides by these rear views of not only 2009 but the entire first decade of the 21st century. It is tempting to try to take a whole ten years of life and distill  into something smooth but it still doesn’t make any sense, so in that spirit the present moment seems like a better place to dwell.

My present moment is consumed with Patti Smith: Dream of Life, which aired on public television last night. A documentary 11 years in the making, it follows the enigmatic artist through a life driven by art and heart and devotion to authenticity at a time in history when such characteristics, at least in the mainstream–but even within the arts–are becoming obscured by technology, obsessive self-awareness and  apathy.

Being an artist does require talent, but I wonder if what truly distinguishes artists from others is their ability to see beauty in things where it would otherwise appear void. And in an increasingly complex and often ugly world, the role of the artist is becoming more crucial than ever. I am so moved by the purity of Patti Smith’s expression, her interaction with the world around her, her almost innocent approach to creative process.

Though I’m loath to make resolutions or project much meaning into the “new year” I will take note of the impact Ms. Smith made on me at this, the ending of a year/decade, and I will allow myself to be inspired by her life and work so that going forward I am not only reshaped in my own artistic pursuits but that the role I serve within the community through coverage of the arts is strengthened by it.

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2 Comments to “Happy New Year”

  1. Her quote in the YouTube except sums up what makes her interesting:

    “I found fairyland right inside myself here (NYC) ‘cause it let me. When I lived is South Jersey, there was no time for daydreamin’, and life was simpler there. You weren’t hassled, you didn’t have people trying to hold you up or goose you…but that’s all there was. There was no chance for extension, there was no chance to be destroyed or really be created there, just lived… and that’s ok for some people but I always felt something different stirrin’ in me.”

    I feel that way sometimes too…

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