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Obscurity and why artists make art

I’m not sure how I feel about Kahlil Gibran’s thoughts about why artists make art. It rings true for me and I suppose that may be why I am resisting it, somewhat.

Maria Popova’s post “The Great Arab-American Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Kahlil Gibran on Why Artists Make Art” includes this quote from Gibran about the birthplace of “art and artists”.

I would open my heart and carry it in my hand so that others may know also; for there is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed. We all want that little light in us to be taken from under the bushel. The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists?

On the one hand, I can’t help but read this as saying that art is born out of a need to be seen and acknowledged, a kind of exhibitionism. I suppose that makes sense. I don’t claim to be an artist of any significance but I do often feel a need for my work to be seen (even as I accept that, for the most part, it won’t).

On a related note, Popova’s post reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s advice to “make good art“. He arrives at this advice from a slightly different direction but I suspect he wouldn’t disagree too much with Gibran’s thoughts.

Source: The Great Arab-American Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Kahlil Gibran on Why Artists Make Art – Brain Pickings

Image credit: fré sonneveld

By Paul

Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at Automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

1 reply on “Obscurity and why artists make art”

I think that there are 2 kinds of people…Those who like/love the notoriety or to be seen and acknowledge (mostly because it’s a “need” of sorts) and those who simply don’t. For me, I’m not one to have the need to be seen…As a matter of fact, I am of the camp in which my work is expressed through my words and my art. I have a very close circle of people who are very few to speak of when it comes to my art. To me, it’s not art if you need money, notoriety, or an “atta boy” from those who seek attention more than they do their art. All it takes for me is to know and feel lucky enough to have the resources I do to obtain the materials I need to produce my art. Once ego is let in, the art suffers.

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