Outside the Box
There have been plenty of times when I have gotten an artistic critique that made me cringe. I mean, even last month my brother told me he didn't like my comic books as much as my novels. At first, that hurt and it made me upset. Then I realized he was just telling the truth. It was his truth. I love that he can be honest with me like that. It's what I want and expect from my friends and family.
In the world of critiquing art among friends on the blogosphere, it becomes very difficult to see people remove you from their blog lists or ostracize you as a friend for speaking your truth. I am very up front when it comes to possibilities in a piece of art. Like many of you know, I don't believe in a good or bad. Art is art and that is a subjective process. You do it. Someone likes it. Someone doesn't.
Now when it comes to critiquing this is outside good or bad. It's simply an option for possibilities. Each artist when viewing my work can see different choices that I could have made, whether it's punctuation, word choice, or theme. This is the nature of art and it's a process. Just as much as the critique is a process for us to move deeper into what we do.
I am continually looking for new ways to present the internal me in an external format. I get critiques from dishwashers, corporate executives, hair stylists, priests, you name it. Everyone has a way in which they can see an art piece go a different direction. They might say, "Did you have to use so much green?" or "I don't like the way you wrote this line."
That's okay. It's not personal to me. I might like the green. I might even look at the painting a few days later and say, "Hmmm, maybe I could use less green." It doesn't really matter. Our choices as artists are our own. We decide what is right for what we do. And second guessing ourselves doesn't come from the outside world. It is there internally, then externally.
That is why when someone says that I am ________(insert adjective here). I look for it in myself. Am I arrogant? Have I been stubborn? Can I be insensitive? Could my novels be a different type of writing than comic books? Sure. I can be any number of things. So can my artistic work. Me, like my art, is in constant flux. There is no end or perfection. It's simply trying again in each moment I have.
That is the secret to a happy artist and a happy person. We can't look at the approval or disapproval of someone to dictate who we are. We can't expect to be perfect in our life and art, or expect others to be models of what we're not. All we can do is try and change what we are. Then the world around us changes. This is the truth.
Now for me as a critique of a person's work, I do not have an intention to do harm. All my questions or comments correlate point ouside of what is possible. This has been the modus operandi that has been offered me by my favorite critiques: my family, Ann Waldman, Cole Swenson, Shane Book, Jim Goar, Stacy Dacheux, Dana Lynn, Rebecca Loudon, Moksha, Michaelangelo, Fitzy Boy, Bret Agins, Franky, John P., Vikram Bhagat, you name it.
The list continues upon itself a thousand times over. It can be my 5 year olds at Seven Oaks Academy, who said, "There's not enough kissing in your story." Or it could be a big, Turkish guy who says I'm not a good singer, because I can't sing like the lead singer of The Cult. All these moments are opportunities for me to show up. I can either run from the question, or I can ask if there is truth to it.
In the end, there is truth to every critique. I am an imperfect being just like we all are. That's a beautiful thing. Especially when it comes to our art. It can be just like us - imperfect, shallow, arrogant, proud, beautiful, touching, skimpy, and fat. Whatever it is, it will be equal to what we are as well.
If we can move out of our safety zones, out of our needs for approval, fame, or success - if we can take a critique without flinchng against our own truth - if we can move beyond the external factors of art - we will touch upon why we create before there was Rolling Stone, Sub Pop, City Light Books, Hollywood Stars, Atmoic Bombs, or MFA's.
This is where I'm heading. It's a beautiful road. It will include teaching writing, reading, making, creating, you name it. And I won't hesitate to offer my friends, family, lovers, or strangers the truth about how I feel when I read their work, hold their hands, or kiss them asleep. I won't hesitate to see my stupidity, arrogance, or sense of ineptitude. I will be me. A man who is searching, honest, trying, and feeling his way to the truth inside him, to the wonders of creativity.
To no boxes! To freedom!!
Pirooz Mahmood Kalayeh