There’s an episode of Seinfeld called “The Understudy” where one of Jerry’s many girl friends gets her big break in a Broadway musical only to flub her opening number. The very whiny girl friend turns to the audience and pleads with them to let her start over. Violinist Anne Sophie Mutter would be the opposite of that. I had a chance to watch Mutter perform once at the Kennedy Center in Washington thanks to the generosity of a friend (artists are way too poor to afford tickets to Mutter’s recitals). Anne Sophie Mutter’s performance was so perfect, it’s hard to believe she’s human. She is angelic or something. Oddly enough, she gets a certain amount of flak for her virtuosity. Her performance is so perfect that people imagine her music lacks emotion. The music is full of emotion! It’s just that we’ve almost come to equate emotion with imperfection!
I have a violin and started “fiddling around” with it some years ago, and when I’m very well warmed up I can play some jazz by ear that’s not too shabby. (It helps if all the planets are perfectly aligned.) I doubt I could ever have been a performer even if, like Mutter, I had begun at age four. In that area of life where I have the most freedom and fluency, I make mistakes all the time. Big ones!
Maybe artists are just clumsy people. One artist here at wordpress has the picture of a Julian easel toppling over in a stream as a kind of logo. And I’ll bet that WR Jones has some stories he could tell you. I have painted things en plein air, thought my picture magnificient, stood back for the better view, and watched the whole thing go SMACK face down in the dirt by an ill-timed gust of wind. I cannot count the unfortunate bugs I’ve picked out of other en plein air productions. And I’m always dropping stuff, brushes and whatnot. Or losing things (the precise photo, drawing, whatever, that I need for the project at hand).
What I absolutely love about painting, the reason why I know it was meant for me, is that painting is a performance that takes place in utter secrecy and the only notes that count are the ones visible on the top layer. You can make a tangled mess of the bottom, you can change your mind a thousand times, you can miss your cue, falter on the first note, sing out of key, forget the words — as long as you recover in that thin top layer — you win!
[Top of the post: First layers (learning the riff) of the latest project, by Aletha Kuschan, oil on canvas]