Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Crazy, Sick Artists
I had to go to the rheumatologist for a problem with my hand (which he fixed, bless him). He asked me what I did, prompting an interesting conversation on medicine and artists. His anatomy book has a portrait (by Picasso?) of Renoir, who suffered crippling rheumatoid arthritis, on the cover.
The doc tried to tie artistic vision to medical conditions, like manic depression. For example, he’s fascinated by the colors used by Gauguin in his South Pacific paintings, done under the effects of third stage syphilis. I disagreed that much artistic creativity is the result of a physical abnormality/condition. I think artists teach themselves to see differently.
Apparently many medical professionals are worried that the huge number of people taking anti-depressants (one in three American women?!) will hurt America’s creative power. When I suggested most artists don’t have health insurance to get meds, the doc said that soon China will be making cheap, generic happy pills, and the problem will get worse.
So when we’re sad do we make better art? Sometimes, for some artists. But many, like me, make art when we’re sad to get happier. If that makes sense.
Lovely colors of Charles Sheeler and Georgia O’Keefe, both from 1925