XO-LP // Laura Palmer


Love Letters to a New Year.

Preach it Roberta.

My gal Lois and her sweet husband Lou support the Des Moines Art Center by bringing stars of the art world to our city, to our Art Center. I can still tell you where I was sitting when I heard Jaume Plensa speak about the Nomad (and the way we search our whole lives to find people who can "read our code" and understand us. I still think about this every time I drive by the sculpture, which has become an icon for our city.) I got to see Vik Muniz smile broadly when discussing his home country of Brazil and share his newest work that focused on the micro, not the macro, experience. Lou and Lois have gifted me quite a bit of inspiration. 

Last week the Fingerman Lecture presented Roberta Smith, New York Times art critic.

I have no shortage of opinions. On everything. Art is no exception. 

I like work, I love work (I once wept in a room full of Rothkos), I don't understand or appreciate other stuff. There's some stuff I think it pretty crappy. (Sorry. But I'm keeping it real.) Ms. Smith is a critic, so she's basically the best at opinion-ing. As Ms. Smith pointed out, we all are critics in our own way: forming opinions on the person seated in front of us, the voice of the human speaking, the outfit that girl just strolled in wearing. You get  my point and hers.

Ms. Smith was honest, direct and, at times, potentially controversial. (In a room full of Art Center supporters she doubted the beauty of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, basically considered a sin in our city.) She urged the audience to spend less time listening to artist explanations and more time understanding the art in your own way. Art can still be about aesthetics, she stressed. 

"It's important to hate things," she said.

The point she made, repeatedly, that both stressed me out and got me thinking: Don't be an artist. "If you love art, don't be an artist. Your obligation to your love of art is to keep art in motion." Where was Ms. Smith back in October when I went full-time #goingsolo and surrendered myself to my illustrator life? She spoke about coming out from behind your work to get out and actually change the world, not simply fight for social justice on a canvas. Being an artist is hard, of course, but loving art and finding another way to promote it, to exist with it, to care for it: that is what Ms. Smith pushed the audience to consider. 

I left feeling strangely inspired. Ms. Smith might have urged me to not be an artist, but she also pushed me to consider my motives, to consider my strength. When I wake up each day am I compelled to draw, to create to bring an idea to life with a sharpie? When Rilke writes "Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write" in Letters to a Young Poet, my brain sends little fireworks to my heart. 

"[Being an artist] is as much about will and determination as it is about gifts and talents." 

Preach on Roberta. Preach on.