Palette. Dried acrylic on plastic.
The jazz pianist Vijay Iyer said a few things recently that resonated with me. He was talking in particular about jazz improvisation and about the notion of a "career" - a label he rejects. I think his comments can apply equally to all the arts.
"My primary orientation is as an artist and what that means is that I make things. I don’t make things in order to make money—I make things in order to communicate, reflect, meditate, and connect with people. It’s a personal practice. It’s a spiritual practice. It’s a social practice. And that’s really the foundation of everything I do."
"The most I can say is that it never feels finished to me—I never think I’ve mastered anything yet. I just think of myself as a student. I also work really hard on details and I don’t mean in an obsessive way—I mean in a patient way. You know when something is ready by not overthinking it and tapping into something that’s emotional and spiritual. You have to really wait until it hits you there and then you know you have something..."
"What is success? When it comes to making art, I don’t know what that is. I know what’s genuine and I know what I want to hear...The main thing is the value of being a performer is that I get to listen to the audience the whole time. I listen very carefully to them. It’s not about listening to them clapping—it’s about listening to them breathing. What are their bodies doing right now in relation to what I’m doing and are we connecting? If I always listen to that, then it’s not about success in terms of album sales or awards. It’s actually about meaning something to people and reaching people and making a difference."
These remarks are excerpts from an article in Fast Company, which came to my attention via the newsletter of the website Piano Street. Iyer is a classically-trained musician who studied both violin and piano, but he studied mathematics and physics as an undergrad at Yale, then started a doctorate in physics at Berkeley -- but music eventually won out. He's the recipient of a MacArthur grant and has recently been appointed to the music faculty at Harvard; meanwhile he is busy playing concerts and recording. Our friend Teju Cole recently performed with him in New York; Iyer has created a large performance work based on Open City.