I’m not sure when it hit me, but it was less a shot to the head and more like carbon monoxide creeping up slowly. At first the phrase seemed quaint at best, but bumper sticker jargon doesn’t stay with you like some sort of brain anchor. It hit home through its simplicity not in spite of it - “I am not my art.”
What did it mean?
What were its consequences?
I’ve always considered myself an artist. Though the medium would change throughout my life, it was never just what I did. It was who I was.
Nathan Hartman: Singer
Nathan Hartman: Actor
Nathan Hartman: Broadcaster
Nathan Hartman: Writer
Nathan Hartman: Filmmaker
To that age old party question — “What do you do?” — I had an answer, and dammit and I was proud of it.
“Nobody else is going to do it for you,” they told me. “If you want to be noticed through that pile of has-beens, wannabes, and never-wills, you’ve got shine like lady liberty herself through the fog of mediocrity for all to see!” And so I gave it my all.
“Like my Facebook page!”
“Check out my new website!”
I was a big bright neon billboard for myself.
And it was exhausting.
It is exhausting.
I got so focused on my end goal of artistic respect and success that I never noticed I was running in a hamster wheel and sucking from the drip bottle of meager praise found in a social media thumbs up.
It’s pathetic, but it’s human.
Lives have been wasted waiting for artistic recognition. Ask the sixty-five year old Hollywood waitress, who came to town to be the next Diane Keaton or the bitter Manhattan painter, who hasn’t been in a gallery in decades out of jealousy. These are the lucky ones. Others spend 60 hours a week being berated by their ego-driven superiors and have long ago decided that this is “okay” because well…at least they’re close to the action.
We were meant for more.
Sharing your art is a beautiful thing and tweeting about your next film/show/book/gallery isn’t some sort of crude creative exhibitionism, but we must be able to find contentment outside of our passion first. A college professor of mine once said, “We are human beings, not human doings” and he was right.
What good are we as artists in finding truth in humanity if we don’t know the truth of being human?
So yes, I write.
Yes, I make films.
Yes, I am an artist.
But I am not my art.