Thursday, March 14, 2019

Art vs. Supper

Today's culture puts little value on home life. Domesticity can be dully repetitive (as my Babi would joke, "You want supper again? I fed you yesterday!"), and for some, a barrier to more "lofty" achievements.
In my case, home life was always more appealing than anything else, work or vacation included (vacation, to me, is as much work as work). I've feel fulfilled when chasing after kinfauna. I find the noise of something substantial clattering up the vacuum hose oddly satisfying. And, weirdly, I don't mind doing dishes.
Yet these necessary and endless tasks can get "in the way" of "art," according to the standard narrative. As Bookends asked, "Are Domestic Responsibilities at Odds With Becoming a Great Artist?" The question was answered by Siddhartha Deb, a single father, and Dana Stevens, a mommy.
Deb argues that standard employment is not considered a barrier to art, only dish washing, because the latter is uncompensated and so, therefore, "unproductive."
Yet the reality is that art and domestic work are both likely to go uncompensated or poorly compensated, and under such circumstances, both have to be approached with love and rigor to be done well. In that sense, great art and domestic responsibilities are as like each other as my elaborate meal plans are like the chapter outlines of my maximalist novel.

Stevens provides examples of recognized authors who did not have children, and even gave credit to their art for that fact; however, she also lists those who did have children and succeeded. She also points out that many abandoned their families in the pursuit of "art" and did not become well-known.
. . . with time, my romantic vision of the uncluttered life of the pure artist has gotten agreeably cluttered by life itself.

She simply concludes that an artist must be more driven, that's all, in order to create, and that shows their devotion. No worries.
Yiyun Li reviewed Deborah Levy's book "The Cost of Living," as Levy describes her writing while also extremely busy with everyday life. The stereotypical artist escapes from the responsibilities of the mundane life, but does that make their work any better without those "distractions"? Levy's books were critically recognized, even with the millstones of everyday hanging about her neck.
For my own preferences, I prefer reading stories of "real life," of characters navigating the everyday, the mundane, and trying to figure out the best choices to make. In general, facing reality head-on instead of avoiding the inevitable is my jam. I don't find artists who abandon their families to float without care at all appealing; that art, in my opinion, is worthless.
It can be done.