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Art Quote Challenge Posted on November 21st

Bile-puddle? Chaos? Death? Bulwark?!

“My books are water. Those of the great geniuses are wine. Everyone drinks water.”

There is nothing uglier than that on the verge of beauty.” -Samuel Johnson

“If at first an idea isn’t absurd, there’s no hope for it.” -Albert Einstein

“Creation is spitting up everything putrid in your spirit, scribbling in the bile-puddle, then gilding the whole mess and serving the critics truffles on it.” - Charles Bukowski

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

“Art has only two destinations: the void, where it is dropped in hopes of filling it, or the edge, where it becomes a bulwark to obscure that which we cannot fill.” -Sam Beckett

“Art is a great student of death–looming, inevitable, permeating everything yet always remote until it strikes.” -Edgar Degas

“It is a gratification to me to know that I am ignorant of art, and ignorant also of surgery. Because people who understand art find nothing in pictures but blemishes, and surgeons and anatomists see no beautiful women in all their lives, but only a ghastly stack of bones with Latin names to them, and a network of nerves and muscles and tissues.” -Mark Twain 

Purpose is a disease of man from which art doth not suffer.” -William Wordsworth

 “An artist is forced by others to paint out of his own free will.” -Willem de Kooning

Some of the above quotes are real, others I made up. Can you pick out the real from the fake?

 Whoever guesses correctly will receive a prize from–a real one that will be sent to you in the


Like anytime I pretend to be someone else, I wrote these with such ease! But if I was trying to write my own art quote…it would take a day of agonizing. Why is it that masquerading as someone else has this effect? Mimicking can paradoxically make one more creative.  Anyone else have this experience?

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Some Responses to “Art Quote Challenge” :

  1. My favorite is one I heard during an NPR interview:
    “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just get to work.” - Chuck Close

    Commented David on November 21st, 2007.
  2. All sorts of great artists downplay the need for inspiration–yet who doesn’t sit around and wait for it anyway? I always think “I’m just not inspired right now. I’ll wait until I am.” But I guess if/when I’m inspired, I’m not thinking about writing, because I never think: “gee, I’m so inspired right now” when looking at an empty page. The Close quote is a good remedy to that thinking. Otherwise, you could spend all your art-making time courting the muse…arranging your studio or office, drinking coffee etc. and what not all in hopes of attracting a myth.

    Commented admin on November 21st, 2007.
  3. These almost all sound plausible. Having no pride, I’m willing to guess at the fakes, but do you want that in a public comment?

    Commented Steve Durbin on November 21st, 2007.
  4. …you could spend all your art-making time courting the muse…arranging your studio or office, drinking coffee etc. …

    I spend a lot of my time doing that anyway, but it’s because I’m obsessive, not because I’m waiting for inspiration :)

    Commented David on November 21st, 2007.
  5. Feel free to make your guess public comment…unless you think that would give others an advantage. In that case, you can email me. The prize is a good one, so its well worth a shot (and if no one guesses them all, the one with the most correct guesses will get it.)

    Commented admin on November 21st, 2007.
  6. OK, here goes… I’m guessing that that the fake quotes are Nietzsche, Degas, Wordsworth, and possibly Twain. With such a prize on the line it’s tempting to research on the web, but I resisted it as less fun. I hate to share these tips, but then maybe I’ll send my real guesses by email…

    Commented Steve Durbin on November 21st, 2007.
  7. Steve may well win by default…

    Commented admin on November 24th, 2007.
  8. default … faute de mieux … which leads to a relevant Dorothy Parker poem
    Travel, trouble, music, art,
    A kiss, a frock, a rhyme-
    I never said they feed my heart,
    But still they pass my time.

    Commented Steve Durbin on November 24th, 2007.
  9. Ok McFawn, here are my “guesses”:

    Johnson - Fake
    Einstein - Real
    Bukowski - Fake
    Nietzsche - Real
    Beckett - Fake
    Degas - Fake
    Twain - Real
    Wordsworth - Fake
    deKooning - Real

    Commented catfish on November 25th, 2007.
  10. Catfish–how did you know?
    Those answers are correct.

    I wanted to say that art always looks terrible until it looks great. That’s why the act of creation is so hard–there is always a single mark, or word, or paragraph that is redeeming. But before that, it looks terrible. If a work is on the verge of beauty but not quite there, it appears all the uglier because it looks like it could be beautiful.

    Anyhow, so I wrote the Johnson line and thought “That sounds like a maxim for the ages” which gave me the idea to write the rest of the fake quotes.

    I can’t believe the “doth” in the Wordsworth quote didn’t fool anyone.

    Prizes are forthcoming.

    Commented admin on November 28th, 2007.
  11. Greenberg often said, in conversation, that the best new art (of the 40s and 50s) looks ugly at first. He may have written that somewhere too. But he was talking about completed works, not works in progress - though they must have looked ugly too. The Johnson “quote” does not sound “down to earth” enough for him. Even though Wordsworth didn’t say what you attributed to him, it is a good observation about both art and people. The Degas “statement” is beyond the pale. Sounds like a “critic” talking - same with Beckett. Bukowski sounds like a smart sophomore high schooler taking himself way too seriously. deKooning does not really make sense, but that is a well known quote of his.

    Commented catfish on November 28th, 2007.
  12. Second place with an impressive 50%! It’s lucky my cat didn’t enter. Still, this is definitely my best showing all year.

    Commented Steve Durbin on November 28th, 2007.
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