Updated: Aug 11
I spent four days this week visiting family and after a few cocktails each, we began debating the age old question of, "What makes an artist?" The politically correct people of the world would define an artist as somebody who creates, but frankly, I don't think it's quite that simple. There is a common denominator among all of the world's best artists, and that is: tragedy.
Art is basically taking the ingredients we've harvested from our darkest moments, and using them to create something truly beautiful. Think about it—why else would we, as artists, feel so compelled to share our work? It isn't because we're proud of our craftsmanship as much as it's the fact that we're sharing a jagged piece of our souls. Something we've hammered at and forged, yes, but also something that will always remain innately raw and organic.
Something a lot like darkness disguised as light. Something like despair disguised as hope.
Something that makes sense of all the senseless moments that've defined us—all those dark and crippled years, adrift in our self-made horror. Drowning in a nightmare that's as thick as tar and as fluid as smoke. The snap! of our bones breaking, so jarring it makes a home in our teeth: a vibrating, wild thing. The rip of our skin tearing like tissue paper. And the soft purr of stitching ourselves back together again—but stronger, this time. Always stronger.
Without the ingredients of tragedy, creating is meaningless. Nobody cares about somebody who floated blissfully through life without strife, without feeling their heart detonate in their chest, without the time-stopping experience of staring Death in the face, kissing its lips, and finally, finally, finally whispering, "I don't want you anymore."
Art is nothing without tragedy. And tragedy is nothing without art.