Sinclair Lewis’s character, George Babbitt, doesn’t have much use for the arts: “…art and literature are left to a lot of shabby bums living in attics and feeding on booze and spaghetti…”
Babbitt has a smidgeon of accuracy. The creation of art is largely a solitary task. The creators don’t ordinarily invite others to sit and watch them at their work, and many have the reputation of being reclusive and ornery. Those types must certainly be the exception, though. When the ones I am familiar with are done with a piece, it is hard to shut them up.
Winemakers consider winemaking an art. Visit a winery mid-week when visiting tasters are in short supply. If you are lucky, you will catch the winemaker himself or herself doing the pouring – and if you are doubly lucky, you will be the only ones in the tasting room. You probably won’t even have to ask any questions before you start getting answers. The cabin that my wife and I built is near ground zero in North Carolina’s wine country, and we are winery junkies. We have hit just about every one and are first name acquaintances of many winemakers. Catching them during a slack time of day guarantees an education in grape types, growing conditions, climate problems, soil types, etc., etc. It is almost as if this effusion was stored up while they were cultivating, pruning, harvesting and putting up their wines.
And now you’re at the wine bar, tasting their creation and they can’t hold it in any longer.
This past weekend we went to the Sculpture Festival in Lenoir, North Carolina. As we strolled along admiring the works that lined the paths through the beautifully landscaped park, we frequently paused to take a longer look at some work. In a flash, the artist would be at our side – eager to explain the construction, technique or symbolism that went into the creation. There were three grandchildren with us. They would obviously not have been potential buyers for any of the pieces, but that didn’t stop the artists from engaging with them. It was a delightful experience.
Many of these works represented uncounted hours of solitary labor. I could envision mallets, chisels and other tools applied throughout the day and into a lonely night in a cluttered workshop. I could see the artist stepping back now and then to study the last stroke. Stone is an unforgiving medium. Had a mistake been made? Was a correction possible? – or – perhaps – this last little effort was the grand finale! It would be ready for the anticipated exhibition! And now all of the emotion and passion that went into it could be shared. And our little group has stopped in front of it; and we are admiring it. Ahhh.