Depths

Iceberg_Ilulissat

When we create, most of our work is never seen. Most of what we pour into our art is too dense and sinks to the bottom, where, though it cannot be observed directly, somehow its presence is still felt.

It’s hard not to feel like this work is wasted, sometimes. It’s hard not to feel like, if no one sees this background work, if you don’t include the history books and reference each character’s touching background story and explain just how each room is decorated, then what’s the point of figuring that stuff out at all?

Where things are in relation to each other is important. You could cover a painting of a person in paper and scrape a few holes, see an elbow, a chin, a heel, a scrap of hair, and get a very good idea of what lay underneath: However, as an artist, drawing just the elbow, the chin, the heel, the scrap of hair, by their own, in a void, would be almost impossible. The anatomy of the implied portrait would be malformed and ugly. Knowing where each lies in relation to the other, while being unable to see the whole, takes a masterful hand – and even such hands make mistakes. Even such hands would prefer, generally, to do it the safe way, to create the whole and then pare back that which is not needed, rather than take shots in the dark and hope that each hits the bullseye without error.

Thus it is with our characters’ histories. We draw the entirety of their lives so that, in the finished work, when we scrape away all but the detail we need, everything is placed appropriately. The anatomy of their life is complete, working, breathing. They are human. They are real.

To be well crafted, a work must contain these unspoken depths. Even the fastest and most spontaneous work has them. Indeed, often the quicker and dirtier art goes the deepest – since, rather than manufacturing depths, these works tend instead to reveal the depths of the artist himself.

It’s not just our creations that are icebergs that exist 90% under the surface. We are hidden as well.

A person is a vast web of impulses and contradictions, and only a few pieces of that are made visible – to friends, to family, to coworkers, to strangers. And, moreover, which pieces are shown vary, depending on who is being spoken to, who is being interacted with.

We are all unexplored territory. I wonder if what drives people to art is the acuity of that realization. I wonder if what drives us to create is the recognition that the black space within us is expanding, is overgrowing us, and that we need to scrape some of that surface away, expose some of that web of pulsing veiny contradictions, before we are overcome.

There’s more to know –about us, about our characters, about the worlds within us. There’s always more to know.

There’s more to ask. Always.

There’s more to say. Forever.

We will just scrape off a bit of our soul each day and spread it on toast like butter, and know there will always be more where that came from.

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