Americans like to live dangerously. Why else would we be in this position where so many aspects of living put us in collective jeopardy? Every place one looks there is turmoil and under-development. It can be seen acutely everywhere but not in the world of art where I live. What I see in this unique world is the ability for individuals to achieve greatness against serious odds. No matter how long it takes and even when we think nobody is noticing, artists innovate. Sadness? Artists have ways to lift ourselves up. It usually starts with sharing something simple. A delicious fruit, a beautiful sunset, a good night sleep, a cold beer on a hot afternoon etc... Under-capitalized? Artists can re-imagine so at least it is not too painful, plus there is the occasional magic that happens when one person's trash is an artist treasure. However artists are lucky because as a community it is typically generous with one another. Coming together in times of sorrow and joy are natural for most communities but when it happen in artist world, everyone should be prepared to walk away inspired because it happens all the time.
When I first came to Brooklyn in the mid 1980s I became friends with so many people who have long since passed away. Two of them in particular stand by me today with nearly everything I do. Sculptor Alan Glovsky was one of the most open minded, tenacious, capable people I knew. He was a wonderful influence on my children and I can still ask myself the question he asked me all the time.... "are you happy?". If I answer "yes" then... I feel lucky but if I answer "no" it is on me to change that direction. I appreciate this simple clarity. The other great influence in my life was Tessie William, the District Manager for Community Board 2. She advocated for me when nobody dared and she stood by me when I turned my dream into a reality. She was so proud of everyone's creativity. As she started to decline she "made the rounds" with her friends to say a fond farewell carrying a few choice strawberries to share. She told me a story that I want to tell now. Her story explained the difference between heaven and hell. In hell there was bountiful foods and drinks but people lacked elbows to help themselves. It was sad angry place, but in heaven it was the exact same situation except people learned how to feed one another and it was peaceful loving place. So... the moral of her story was that if a community works together then shared problems are solved easily. RIP Tessie and Alan, my love never stopped.
Despite all the unhappiness, greed, fear and hatred there is all around us, we do not need to dance with the devil to accomplish something good. We just have to pick our friends more carefully.