This past weekend I was talking with my dancer friend about a film she’d recently seen (Pina, a tribute to dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch) that she was very enamored with. She said I had to see it, that all artists would benefit from watching it, regardless of what art they created. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Having read and benefitted from dancer Twyla Tharp’s universal perspective in her book The Creative Habit, I felt like I was down with the dancing crowd. I didn’t feel compelled to run out and see the movie, but sure. Why not.
To make her point, and because she had a captive audience, my friend whipped out her laptop to show me a few YouTube clips of the film. Okay, yes, it was pretty, and they definitely knew how to dance, and fine, they–OMG WHAT WAS THIS?! What were they doing?! The fluid movements and lovely down tempo beats! The sets! The costumes! IT WAS RAINING ON THE STAGE! The color and texture and framing and… holy crap, this was like watching a painting. I saw each scene much like I see the beginnings of ideas when I start a new piece. It was beautiful. I was downright inspired.
I love talking to other passionate artists. I love hearing them blather at length (as I do) about their individual loves and interests in art. I don’t even have to be familiar with their art to know why they do it. It’s a kinship. We speak a dialect of passion.
Not all artists are passionate. You can make art, but not be interested in it. I know a number of people who make art but have absolutely nothing interesting to say on the matter. They make art because someone told them they were good at art when they were in second grade and that’s the end of the story.
But, you can tell, by their art, that their heart isn’t in it. There’s no passion for it. They do it because they think they’re supposed to do it.
I would prefer if these people spent more time doing the things they were passionate about. Then we’d have something in common. Passion. You can’t contain true passion and it isn’t relegated to traditionally artistic things. I’ve met people who are truly and utterly passionate about working with children. This is their heart. Yet there’s an element of guilt they carry around because of an odd sense of failure as an artist. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Thank god there are people who are passionate about things other than art.
You can tell when someone is passionate about something, because it’s what they talk about. Lately I’ve taken to endlessly discussing (and writing about) martial arts, because I love it, I do it constantly, and I am unceasingly excited about it. It is a passion. My dancer friend understood this passion probably more than most. We discussed the similarities and differences between the two activities, agreeing that dancing, given its emphasis on balance, strength, pose, and coordination, would actually improve anyone’s ability to perform any sport.
I see a lot of symbiotic relationships in the art world. Music and pretty much any other medium can be combined for greater creativity, either in the process or end result. Performance art can show writers what words are come to life. Even something like gardening can unveil a new world of color and texture. We each have a smattering of interests that choreograph our lives. Those passions make us who we are. There are writer-dancers, fighter-painters, gardener-teachers, scientist-musicians, and floral-arranging-sculptors out there who each bring a different perspective to the world as we know it.
It’s a question of pursuit, each of us embracing our own passions, and our own lives. We don’t have to pursue the things we’re passionate about. We don’t have to pursue anything. But why wouldn’t we? Passion is where boundless energy and limitless peace originate.
Can you imagine living in a world where each of us wholeheartedly pursued the very things we loved most? I’d have trouble distinguishing between that and Paradise.
—Written by Shayla Maddox for Art & Musings