The Heart of an Artist
The Call of the Silence
What occurs at that point in this hypothetical artist’s life is a kind of silence—the first thing he finds out is that for reasons he cannot explain to himself or to others, he does not belong anywhere. Maybe you’re on the football team, maybe you’re a runner, maybe you belong to a church, you certainly belong to a family; and abruptly, in other people’s eyes—this is very important—you begin to discover that you are moving and you can’t stop this movement to what looks like the edge of the world.
James Baldwin - Excerpt from The Artist's Struggle for Integrity - 1969
In the heart of the writer, in the heart of a painter, in the heart of a musician, there is a stillness—a quietness—a silence. A silence in which the sands of time cease to exist. In a moment, the pain and the glory of eternities past coalesce in a single fragment of time. It is a beautiful tragedy that haunts the heart of an artist. It is then that the need for creativity is at its highest.
This silence, though colored with a pallet of impending nothingness, isn’t an absence of existence. It is here, that the artist realizes, that in the infinite silence, the unheard voices begin to tell stories untold.
It is not the writer who chooses to write, or the painter who chooses to paint, or the composer who chooses to compose; it is the silence that calls upon them to make their art. If one refuses the task for too long, the souls within their stories rage in the inescapable pits in which they are damned. For if an artist does not realize that their heart is both a black hole of hell and the glory of the heavens, then one does not recognize the power in which he holds.
The stories which are to be created through pen, paint, or piano, on the surface seem to be for the artists. However, there is ignorance to be had for this train of thought. It is not for the artist; it is for those who cannot tell their story—those who have been damned with a voiceless mouth.
It has been told that in the silence, the artist realizes something else. It is a cold frustration and a warming truth. We are inextricably bound to those who cannot speak within our hearts. The characters of our stories, the brush strokes on canvas, and the adagios of our symphonies are forced from our imaginations in a violent flow of necessity. We don’t want to be artists because we want to create a beauty for ourselves; we want to be artists so we can create a beauty for those who cannot do it for themselves.
You may think that this means you the audience are those to whom we are bound. In a way, it is true but only partially. We are bound to you as a byproduct. We are bound to you because the characters of our imaginations are like you. We are bound to you because you are where we find the keystrokes of the piano. We are bound to you because you tell us the strokes to brush. However, we are only bound to you insofar that we can understand the stories which remain untold in our hearts.
With this comes the realization that every artist must attest to. Being so bound to the stories of our imaginations, we become unbound in the lives in which we live. We may belong to a sports team, we may belong to a church, we may belong to a group of friends, and we certainly belong to a family. However, it is in the silence that we realize we do not belong anywhere.
We traverse the lands, we traverse the landscapes of our friends and families heart, and we traverse the depths of our souls. We do so for what seems like an endless journey to the endless bound of the infinite universe. Inherently, we realize that because we are not bound to you unless you can be tied to the untold stories, that we can not settle for the things in which everyone can settle for. To many, it is a mysterious phenomenon which will forever go unexplained, and so, the many will charge us with a crime.
This crime is not merely because we won’t settle for things in which we seemingly cannot settle for; it is because we are aware. Aware of these stories in which must be told, aware of the cycles in which we must be apart of, aware of the lines we must walk. We are aware that the stories in which we must tell, will be told, and have been told come without choice. We further realize that the characters of our stories, of our paintings, and our music are actually of us.