I only know one starving artist. That’s my friend Larry. Here is how Larry became our protagonist.
While Larry is a starving artist, I am an Art History graduate with an MBA who works for a multinational corporation as an International Finance Analyst. Larry and I both have a passion for art. Recently, I defended my degree in art history during a job interview. I guess to some it has to be one or the other: numbers or words. The experience inspired this essay. This I believe. We are seldom honest about passion.
Enter Larry. Larry is a musician. He moved to New Jersey about two years ago. I met Larry through my friend Bryce, who played the electric piano in their band: “The Hefners.”
I suspect that if this gets out I’ll have to do some damage control because this is where I tell you that “The Hefners” did not sound good. That’s my point. Larry shares Picasso’s view that “the artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world.”
To be fair, “The Hefners,” did tour The Netherlands five years ago. Still, I know that Larry recognizes that music is not paying the rent. The brutal honesty is that Larry couldn’t pick up a guitar at a dinner party and command your attention with his talent, although I’d love to be there to see him do it. Last I heard Larry was not in a band and was battling pneumonia without health insurance.
What I feel proud to share with you is that Larry did it. He made the decision to live for his passion. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that as we get older, Larry will have to forgo a little passion for a little stability.
As I explain Larry to you, acronyms like MBA and CPA suffer from a delusion of grandeur that ironically enough leads to one unavoidable truth. Passion is necessary; but like Picasso said of the artist, no more importance should be attached to passion than to plenty of other things which please us in the world.
The starving artist knows why he starves, and I – and the person who conducted my job interview – know why we do not. Somewhere in there, honesty peaks her head out and lets the Larrys of the world admit their need for health insurance. Just as it lets CFO’s admit that what really matters is immaterial. As this essay comes to a close, I ask you to entertain the following:
If the realities were inverted and making art begot affluence, and financial analysts had to struggle through minimum wage jobs for the privilege to crunch numbers, how many of us would have the courage to live like Larry?
This I believe. We are seldom honest about passion.
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