Dagdha's Blog

My Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on January 23, 2012

Utah.  I have no memory of living there, but that’s where I was born.  My earliest memories take place in different apartments throughout Glendale and Burbank.  I didn’t learn to read as quickly as other kids my age, though I like to think that’s because my family never stayed in one place for too long.  Eventually when I was eight, my family settled down in a (then sleepy) suburb just outside the San Fernando Valley.  It was in third grade that we started learning our multiplication tables, and for the first time I felt the thrill of excelling in an academic subject.  Division was a bit trickier, but I figured it out and again felt the excitement of conquering a mental obstacle.  The dopamine was additive. I started using the left side of my brain to get as much of it as possible. Math, science, computers- if it was technical it appealed to me. Art, on the other hand, was merely decoration to make the world a bit more colorful.  In my suburban bubble the world made sense, and I was happy.

The problem with bubbles is they eventually pop, and like most tragedies, mine began with a girl.  In a few short months I transformed into a complete stranger, a manifestation of my inner Mr. Hyde, and the world was no longer the pleasant playground I had grown up on.  I desperately sought for answers in the same logic that previously brought me happiness, but reason only begat frustration, fueling the chaotic frenzy I had found myself in. My only solace came in the form of music and movies, which I began to appreciate for their previously unnoticed vibrance.  Eventually I underwent a transformative exodus in the manner of Stephen Daedalus, escaping to start a new life.

In college I tried to pick up where I had left off when the world made sense, but I couldn’t go back to my old ways of thinking without a persistent emptiness gnawing at my core.  I had discovered that life is more than part of a process.  It’s a teacher whose subject is experience, and art is the medium by which humans communicate her lessons. For me, knowing someone has been through similar struggles, making it through to tell their story, became a greater comfort than anything I ever experienced through ritualized practice of religion. Faced with the increasingly difficult reality of adulthood, art became a constant companion in the harsh world outside my sheltered upbringing.

After traversing through most of the schools on campus, I found myself studying art and language in the humanities department, where I discovered an entirely different breed of faculty than I had since encountered.  Instead of the cold self-righteousness that characterized most of the science departments, my newfound professors were warm and familial, with an intense passion for their students and research. This was my first glimpse into the true importance of art, and the sad truth that its undervalued position in society is everything that’s wrong with our culture.

Initially I started studying art history because of a perceived lack in natural artistic ability, so writing about art was the next best alternative.  As I began to study language, however, I started to appreciate its own artistic merits, like the subtle nuances of similar words. Even better, it was a medium with which I had some natural ability.  Subconsciously I began developing my own artistic sensibilities, and that spark of interest would eventually grow into a raging conflagration, containable only through perpetual indulgence.

I’ve studied art now for the better part of a decade, searching for what defines someone as an artist. I haven’t found the answer yet, but I can tell you that an artist, a real artist, is insane. Because of his mental disorder, he experiences the world more acutely than most, living in a more real reality. Eventually everyday stimuli becomes too much to take in, so he is forced to create, expelling thoughts and emotions to keep from slipping deeper into his innate madness. This is why drugs, particularly stimulants and psychedelics, are so synonymous with the art culture- they empower perception of internal and external stimuli, either emulating or enhancing an artist’s perspective. Unfortunately, Westernized society is the natural enemy of the artist, banning anything that might spread his disease to others. Just as a magnifying glass easily reveals cracks in a seemingly flawless surface, the artistic lens exposes ideological injustices more readily than Wikileaks, which is why so much of the best, most passionate art finds its genesis among victims of strife and injustice, serving as counterculture catalysts.

For me, periods of great personal strife have come to define my artistic sensibilities, especially in the tumultuous four years since graduating college. It’s been an era defined by heartbreak, shattered dreams, economic collapse, social unrest, threat of unending war, and a political atmosphere reminiscent of a Jerry Springer episode. Once again I’ve found myself in a world that doesn’t seem to make much sense, but the passive consumption of empathetic media no longer quells my inner madness.  Instead I have a compulsive need to create, to crystallize my ideas and emotions in a futile attempt to affect some kind of change, even if that change is only within myself.

A few year ago I was fixing a laptop and opened a random word document sitting on the desktop.  It was a poetic piece of prose titled “We Ride,” written by a graduate student from CalArts.  Unfortunately I did not make a copy, so I can’t directly quote the powerful ideas it contained, but the thesis focused on an artist’s development, arguing that he does not reach his prime until the age of 30, when has grown enough to garner some degree of wisdom, but not so much that he is set in his ways. I am a few years away from 30, and I feel an urgent need to grow so I can meet that prime honorably.  Consequently I push my self ceaselessly to learn from new experiences, tempering growing cynicism with wisdom and hope for change.

Hope, more than anything, drives my artistic passion.


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