Issue 202, Fall 2012
What is the point of minor artists? What justification, what possible excuse? The litter, the mountains of waste product churned out by so-called artists, self-called artists, who aren’t artists at all but defilers of the idea of art. Instead of artists they should call themselves besmirchers.
By minor I don’t mean unknown. The most famous painters today, for example, are also the most minor, just as the most famous writers are also the most insignificant writers. They are actually minuscule artists. It has always been like this, the insignificant and in fact inflated and empty rising naturally and even inevitably to the top and the weighty and significant sinking inevitably to the bottom, at least at the beginning, and there is nothing to be done about that.
I don’t include so-called commercial artists, who are in the entertainment business and not artists at all.
When I talk of minor artists, I include myself of course.
Two slim books, two juvenile pamphlets written thirty years ago, that I can’t open now without blushing: an essay on Balthus, a tedious, pretentious, art-critical “assessment” of Balthus—as if I could measure Balthus—and a collection of ostentatiously off-the-cuff “art reflections” absolutely stuffed with juvenile poetic prose.
I belittle them now in order to show myself superior to them, but at one time I was full of grandiose illusions.
Instead of a body of work I have an index-card habit.
I was able to live as a minor artist because of my independent fortune, my small independent fortune that let me be a minor artist for most of my life. A minor literary artist in my case.
I never admitted it of course, never admitted to being an artist at all. Not after the first years, when I was in fact a minor juvenile artist. Unlike other so-called artists, I never boasted of being an artist, and especially not of being a literary artist. I was a secret artist. For most of my adult life I was a collector of paintings and a concealed minor artist. I would not admit it because I could not accept the status of minor artist, what I considered the disgrace of the minor artist. I was a concealed failure as a major artist. By concealing the artist I was able to conceal the future.
It was not entirely my fault. In the beginning, and in fact for years after the beginning, decades after that, I was constantly interrupted. The interrupters camped in my house, eating my food, sleeping in every room, sleeping on sofas, rugs, on summer nights the porch was littered with them. There was always somebody around, under foot. I would get up in the morning, thinking I was alone, planning to set to work that very day, I would enter the kitchen and find three or four of them sitting at the table. I fed them, housed them, gave them money in exchange for paintings. I thought of myself as an art patron, a mécène, while in fact I was a vulgar grubstaker. I thought of myself as the center of the art whirl, while in fact they were circling me like hyenas.
They came because of Meininger, they came from all over the world because of him. Not just from Europe—from Turkey, Israel, Brazil, Japan. Hundreds of them came during the three years he stayed at my house. Those people who were always around me, whom I actually took steps to keep around me, whom I constantly pandered to even when I was behaving toward them with maximum hostility, prevented me from creating anything but scraps.