I have tried hard the past few years–with mixed success–to avoid answering the question, “How are you doing?” with the response “Really busy.”
|Some blame our cultural “time shortage”
on the clock, progress, and our obsession
with “now.” But the artist’s studio can be a
place where we reset the clock to an
alternate set of values.
Photos by Greg Nyssen.
During a recent to trip to Philadelphia, I found myself in a museum devoted to industry. There were many large contraptions exhibited, however my eye was caught by a small advertisement from 1926. The General Electric ad read: The average American workman now commands, through electricity, many times his own power. In place of the tired, worn out worker is a new man, commanding power, providing more easily for the needs of his family, and having the time and duty to be a pal to his son.
What the idealistic advertisement failed to mention was that electricity would keep businesses running 24/7. We need never stop working, as the lights never go out–and now when we leave the office we can always work at home. The poor proverbial son never gets his promised pal. Sometimes progress does not deliver what it promises.
Some blame the time shortage on the clock itself. Lewis Mumford wrote in Technics and Civilization: “In the 14th century the clock made us into time keepers and then then time savers and now time servers.”
The race against the clock, the feeling like there is not enough time to go around, is a real driving force in contemporary life. Most people I know are under stress to keep ahead of the competition and the to-do list. Even in the arts, the cultural trend towards the new conversely makes things quickly disposable and obsolete.
|Joseph the Carpenter
by Georges de la Tour, oil painting.
The artist’s studio can be a sanctuary, a place where we can reset the clock to an alternate set of values. The studio is a place to think in terms of posterity–years and decades, not seconds and minutes. We move slowly and steadfastly pursuing what is excellent, creating meaningful drawings and paintings for generations to come.
As artist Gary Faigin said: “A stopped clock is right more often than one that is just off.” Artists working in their studios need not be swept along in the current of trends and industry, and hold true to how they want to paint or learn how to draw.
We are creating an artistic legacy, bringing beauty into a world that needs it, making work that reflects the best of our culture and is built to last. Sometimes it’s okay to stop the clock.