—From “The Blue Stairs” by Barbara Guest
When I first read this line I yell-thought YES! JUST DO YOUR WORK! Humility will happen as you’re too busy creating to worry about it. Head down at the desk or studio or wherever you do your thing.
But where is the humility in creating alone or with our artist friends?
I feel best when I’m deep into a couple of projects and they’re moving along one way or another (I had written “going well” and that felt less humble).
What if humility is the productivity?
Maybe it’s the results of being humble that equals productivity—the drive we need to create.
Humility is, at its core, peace. Much of this so-called productivity surrounding us just a mess of capitalism. Buy this one more thing and you’ll get so much done! Productive—limitlessly?
At the end of “The Blue Stairs” there’s a note: “The Modern Museum in Amsterdam has blue stairs.”
Being surrounded by incredible art can feel pretty fucking humbling.
We can even feel like we’re accomplishing a lot by just looking at this art. By participating in its greatness, by just being near it.
I remember going to The Centre Pompidou in Paris on a whim. After a day of biking around eating the best macarons in the city we found ourselves staring at this giant museum across its long, open, paved square. I remember saying to my friends, “I’m going in there if y’all want to come.”
My wife joined and we were floored for the 2-3 hours we spent walking around.
We felt humbled by all the great art (though going to The Centre Pompidou and writing about it can definitely feel like a brag and not super humble).
Is participating in art is essential to humility as artists?
It’s tricky to think of making your art as somehow less-than-humble. I write endlessly about how important it is for you to do you. That you doing you rubs off on me. That’s it’s your only true choice for progress—your gift to this lifetime. Your work is important and needed and it ripples out.
This way of interpreting Barbara Guest’s line might look like making our art and doing us—realizing it’s for the better of the crew at-large. More than just for us in our studios, or for money, or both. Searching for humility in our space of feeling the joy of working and completed work.