Friday, January 1, 2010

Art Blog: Artist’s Responsibilities

This week, I had the honor of watching an episode of POV which featured the documentary about rocker/poet Patti Smith titled “Dream of Life” by filmmaker Steven Sebring.

Patti means a lot to me. I remember back in the late 70’s, she lived just a few miles away from me in Detroit. I would fantasize about going over to her house and crashing her gate. I never did. It was just a daydream. I remember buying her book “BABEL” and carrying it around like it was my Bible. Back then I thought, Patti was all the things I wished I could be.

It is unfortunate that when the PBS documentary came on TV it was late enough for me to be tired and watching with one eye. I kept dozing in and out of consciousness. It was one of those moments when you are trying so hard to stay awake, but just can’t. If I had known this show was going to be on, I would have prepared better. I didn’t and I didn’t.

As I watched on and off, I became frustrated because I really needed a pencil and paper by my side. It was one of those moments when you want to take notes. So many things she said during the film were so inspirational. I realized as I watched how we were such kindred spirits. She spoke of her angst, her artistic connections to artists including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe and Michael Stipe. I even remember a portion of the film she spoke of Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud. My heart jumped because I too read the works of Rimbaud and the fact she went to France to retrace his final steps was awe inspiring.

As my eyes became heavier, I fought to watch the end of the movie. I wasn’t winning the fight. However, I think it was when she spoke of William Blake, she said something that made my brain try to fight harder against unconsciousness. She said something about artist’s responsibilities. She mentioned how artists such as Blake and Rimbaud had done the work. She (and other artists of our day) responds to their work and this propels us to do our own. This process continues and it becomes cyclical. Each generation of artists learn from the past generations. It is our artistic responsibility to keep the cycle turning.

Just as the film was ending, I stared at the ceiling realizing I had made it to the end (kind of). I remembered those words of advice. I will admit my interpretation and recollections of her words might be a bit stilted and nebulous due to my quasi-sleep induced state of mind. At least, I remembered that sentiment and it struck a chord. In fact, it hit me hard. I was reminded why it is important for me to keep being the artist I am.

Ironically, my viewing of her documentary was my own DREAM OF LIFE.
Thank you Patti for being you.
Thank you Patti for letting me be me.
Thank you Patti for keeping the wheels of art turning.

Photo credit:
Click on pic to find out more about this documentary.
It is worth it.


Amelia said...

you have some really interesting ideas going on here, and I admire your thinking and enthusiasm. I too am starting an initiative (thinking of your online shows) and it can be hard as you don't know how things will be received.

It is late here where I am now, so I will be back again to look further!


Amy Wing said...

Hi Sheree, happened across your gitouttamyface project this morning. I'm intrigued and will hopefully remember to check in again. I'll post about it on my blog ( - we have a lot of awesome artists following us. Putting you on my reader - hopefully will have time to read more here soon. :)

Sheree Rensel said...

Thanks!!! The first show deadline is already closed. However, there will be more shows this year. I will keep your name on my mailing list and keep you posted.

Sheree Rensel said...

Ditto to you too! I will put you on the mailing list too!