For Art’s Sake, I’m Broke

Months ago I had the fortune to attend an art exhibit at the Urdaneta Hall, together with my friends from the Mirror Poetry Guild. The exhibit was part of the thesis rendered by the Fine Arts students of the University of San Agustin. Dubbed as “Metaphorica” the exhibit displayed artworks that signify social issues and philosophical convictions through interlacing common objects such as crane origami ,pile of chicken feathers, canvasses, etc.

The said exhibit surrounded me with nostalgia, and it reminded me of my ARFIEN days (stands for Architecture and Fine Arts, the Department where I belonged, La Consolacion College-Bacolod). Before I found my niche in writing, I used to take up B in Fine Arts (major in Advertising Arts), and filling my eyes with these creative works was indeed overwhelming.I just wanted to grab my sable brush and dip it in my acrylic-coated palette. I wanted to paint again!

Anyway, I’m not gonna linger on the art exhibit per se, ‘coz honestly, I wasn’t quite impressed at all. I mean, the student artists were fine, but since it’s a graduation requirement, I reckon that the works were done in a hasty manner just to comply with it. With this kind of system, you just have to compromise your creativity. And in the first place, you don’t have to defend your art creation. That’s why the Installation Art, as they called it, did not arouse my senses. Or maybe, the literary artist has abdicated the visual artist in me(how sad!).

Art for Art’s sake. This term popped out during the conversation between a teacher and a student during the exhibit. The teacher asked the student “Why did you take up Fine Arts?” The student said, “Because I love to draw since I was a kid.” The teacher replied, “So it’s art for art’s sake. You mean, you don’t concern yourself with finances, or getting rich someday. You draw because that’s what you love to do.” No answer from the student. My Wilde tendency crept through my consciousness upon hearing the term “Art for Art’sake.” I first encountered the term from reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde theorized that:

“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist.”

Perhaps the student missed the point. Or maybe some of us who call ourselves artists, miss the point as well. And the fact that we exist in an environment where financial stability and material possession matter, the “purity” of being artists become tainted with worldly desires. Sure, the claim may seem an obsolete theory and Wilde may be too idealistic in his pronouncement, but I think Art for Art’s sake is still transcendent and universal. But the question is, do we believe in this rallying cry?

I call myself a poet. An artist. There comes a point in my life where I question my authenticity as one, especially when I’m on the verge of succumbing to my hedonistic inclination. Why do I write? Why must I write? Why can’t I just be happy without lifting a pen and squeeze my mettle in order to create metaphors? Why don’t I have the drive to earn a lot of money and build an obscenely huge house in our barrio? Why does the smell of the sea alight on my nose?

I’m not really sure if there are still real artists that walk over this modern world. Artists who dare to seclude themselves in the woods, artists who go for broke, artists who can defend their art no matter how eccentric they seem to be, artists who can spend the whole day writing, artists who can deal with persecution because of labels, artists who can appreciate simple things, artist who will die because of their art, artists who render their art for free, artists who do not aspire to become rich or famous.

I have always been reminded by my literature professors that Passion is important in my craft. Eversince, I fool myself by believing that poetry is more of a wealth than money. Maybe I’m a fool because, now, I believe them. I’m broke. I have no money to pay for my rent. I am jobless. So what? It doesn’t bother me. I can wake up in the morning with a smile on my face, with the inspiration to write on my journal, and with the energy to laugh at my tribulations. I have no idea what’s getting into me,but somehow, I feel that there are still reasons to be happy, to be passionate about life more that what money and other material things could offer me.

If this is what being an artist is, then I embrace it with arms wide open.

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