Daniel Brush is an undeniably great artist. He was interviewed in an episode of the Time Sensitive Podcast, where he tells wonderful stories from his childhood, his art, and his career. He concludes the podcast with these thought-provoking ideas about the role of an artist:
All I can ever hope for is that somebody would recognize or feel that I am on that work with all my heart, and nothing beyond it. That’s all I hope for. If they walk away, fine. I remember, I think it was my mother… I can’t remember who told me this. I’m trying to look through all my notes about it.
You could never tell, as the story goes, the romance of it. The man walks through the village, some people would throw stones at the man, some people would just jump up and down wildly laughing at the man. Other people would change their life because of the man. I love the story. Any of those kinds of things are so powerful.
If you say it—my God, you’re an artist. It’s hard to say. People say, “What do you do?” It’s like, “I’m an artist.” You don’t want to be totally snarky and awful and say, “Well, I’m an epistemologist.” That’s like, you want to throw up. If, somehow, for lack of any other file-cabinet designation, I say, “I’m an artist, I’m an artist,” it’s serious business in my mind.
It’s serious. I’m 72 now. It’s very serious. I get up and I treat it like, I’m going to work. I’m not going to waste time, and I’m going to try to do my best…
If I get the chance to show something or share something, let the viewer make it themselves, with their eyes and their heart. My signature on it doesn’t mean anything to me. If there’s some sort of great dialogue that happens, how cool is that? Gee, to just be able to speak to somebody else, to really get a little deeper than the surface. That’s a big deal. You have companionship then. If it lasts a little longer than yourself, wow, what a responsibility.
I enjoy so much how Brush views his responsibility as an artist. He recognizes that his creations, once they are out in the world, belong to the world. They are not his to contain anymore. Everyone who encounters his work takes it in, and it becomes part of their experience of the world.
I think that some of the best artists understand this at a deep level, and as a result they spend less time worrying about their status and labels and more time giving generously of themselves.
This selfless generosity is a worthwhile goal.