Why Not Show?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2020 in blog | No Comments

Whenever the question is raised, “Is it Art if it has no public?” inevitably Emily Dickinson is invoked along with the query, “why did she not publish her poems?” She is known to have said that “publication is the auction of the mind.” Sounds like an answer to me, but in point of fact, there is no certain and certainly no single answer to this. Nor is there one, similarly, for why an artist would create and then not show his/her work.

If, as an artist, you’re not a factory producing consumables, the answers become clearer. On the one hand, you must make the effort to locate, perhaps compete for, and nearly always pay for a venue to make your work available beyond your private circle of friends, family, or the small coterie of artists with whom you may work. And on the other, barring an over weening zeal to be seen and maybe recognized, you may need others to encourage and more probably to “push” you to get your work out.

It is also worth remembering that oftentimes one’s art may be quite esoteric, eccentrically personal, or simply work that fails to fit in with the medium and style of the day. So what’s the point? And then there is the reality that for some, attention–even well meaning attention–is simply not a desirable thing. I think that’s what Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Success Is Counted Sweetest,” suggests.

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

(This blog is largely shamelessly & unapologetically plagiarized from the Emily Dickinson “Biography Online.” To see how go to: https://www.biographyonline.net/emily_dickinson/dickinson__poems_published.html I am taken with the entry there because no attempt is made to be authoritatively, academically, or merely assertively correct. And that just makes good sense.)

Leave a Reply