Philip Guston: today's exhibit A of how hard it is to make what you have to make. There's a good article on him and his work in the Washington Post. Talk about heroism - he was an acclaimed cerebral abstract expressionist when all of a sudden he pulled a u-ie and went cartoony low-life. He went from this:
Formally there are a lot of similarities between these two paintings. That's a digression.
So-called friends dumped him (for changing his painting style? That's not friendship) and in the beginning the critics excoriated him.
Guston won though, as we can see (links to google image search) These days it's hard to find a contemporary artist who doesn't worship him. He had the guts to moon his meal ticket. He abandoned conventional success for bald honesty and the grueling job of facing his darkest emotions. These late works are paintings of vicious battles fought doggedly and, in the end, with compassion. They aren't pretty paintings but they are beautiful.
I don't want to belittle his early work though. Only Athena sprung fully developed from the head of Zeus (what the hell am I talking about?!) The rest of us have to build our strength and skills to be able to do our best work. We have to get fed-up with ourselves and with what we've already done. We have to find our way before we can take a shot at being a hero.
I hope that what I'm doing now is the foundation for more difficult work to come. I know I'm not ready yet to take on my incarnations of the monsters Guston fought. At least, not head-on. The truth is I can't even imagine how to do this. I have to do what I'm doing now at the very least because I don't know what else to do.
So why complain? Just get to work!