The Art of Fred Martin
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January 7, 1978

People were talking about art and fame and power, money and sex. It was a dinner party for young artists and critics - those who might hope for fame and those who might dispense it. The artists said they didn't want it; the critics said they didn't have it to give. They all felt comfortable together. What follows in these paragraphs is from what I heard that night, in the context of a three-part metaphor about the shape of human life. First, the metaphor:

Dane Rudhyar, in Astrology and Personality, describes three twenty-eight-year cycles of how we are and how we may become, and his symbol for each period is a different “body of immortality” because his continuing concern is for what remains after the death of the individual. In the first phase, we fulfill in ourselves “the body of our race,” and our individuality is like that of an apple on a tree, a blade of grass in a meadow—each of us is different but we live, actually, entirely submerged in a larger whole. During this time, our personality moves from introversion toward extroversion, and in the last fourteen years of this first twenty-eight-year cycle we seek to expand ever more passionately into the external world: we are driven by our senses seeking to re-create the stuff of our bodies in the continuation of the species. In this respect, Rudhyar says that the “body of immortality” for those from puberty to their late twenties lies in the continuity of the chain of the generations.

I heard someone at the dinner party say: "Sex is the most important thing to me. Maybe it's because I get so little, but I think about it constantly.” He was in his early twenties and was living the metaphor which Rudhyar described... so far, evidently, without “making it.”

In the second twenty-eight-year cycle, Rudhyar says we build our “psychic body”, or “body of work,” the social, economic or cultural object which will remain after us. For most people, it is the family which they create as consequence of their physical desires in the latter part of the first cycle. However, this “psychic body” may also be the legislation or institution (business, church, university, etc.) which the individual has helped to create or maintain; it may be the scientific discoveries or the works of art which the person has made. It is called a “body of work” because we must indeed work if we are to achieve and sustain anything in the world; it is called “psychic body” because, with the exception of the family, it is a “body of immortality” only to the extent that later generations enter into that shape of mind which the individual created—participate in the social structure, work .in the institution, read the novel, look into the painting. Walter Pater said of the artist, “The work he has created is the house he has made.” For Rudhyar, that house. is the artist's “body of immortality”, and Titian, Beethoven, Van Gogh and Picasso live again in us when we enter the houses of their works. Sex makes possible one's immortality through the race; money, power and fame make possible one's immortality through the body of work.

MONEY is an idea I've noticed artists can hardly stand, but I've noticed that no one can really live without the fact of having it—especially the artist who would create the body of work that will survive in the world his death in the world. Such people must have construction financing. That's all there is to it.

POWER bugs artists and everyone else. We fear someone will use it on us; we fear we'll lose it while we're using it on them. One of our cultural stereotypes is to behave like children who fear their parents and so strive to abolish any idea and fact of their power from the world. But power is absolutely essential to anyone who would create a body of work. Such a person needs artistic power to shape the work esthetically, intellectual power to shape it conceptually, material power to shape it physically and political power to open a place for the work in the world, to put it forth as some special thing to be observed among all the heaps of everyday life. (In this regard, every artist should be made to live for a time in museum basements and attics filled with pile after pile of broken dreams, art works no longer protected by power and so become through neglect only ordinary, dusty trash.)

“FAME is the approbation of colleagues”, said a critic at the dinner, though one said later that it (fame) was a “hokey idea”, and another said it was “kitsch”. The young artists were as ambivalent about fame as the critics were, but I think they'd all welcome it on their own terms just as they would sex with the right partner. Certainly, anyway, the body of work, the psychic body, can't survive, can hardly even come to be, without the approbation of colleagues. It's the failure of approbation that leads artists to stop work on their houses, and it's the lack of approbation after that allows those once bright mansions to fall into ruin.

Sex creates the first of Rudhyar's “bodies of immortality”; money, power and fame are essential to the creation of the second. The young artists at dinner were loaded with power for the first body, but were distrustful of the powers needed for the second—mostly because they were afraid they might not have enough. The critics' ages put them in the center of work on the second body, but like everyone in our culture, they knew it is uncool to admit the importance of money, power and fame in what they do.

Rudhyar projects a third “body of immortality”, product of the third twenty-eight-year cycle. He says it is a “cosmic body” generated by Spirit. I think it is quite outside the cultural canons of the twentieth century western world, because none of the artists or critics at the dinner party mentioned it or the power that is supposed to create it. Late that night, however, I read of that third body: “ ‘We will now be like dust on the road,’ don Genaro said. ‘Perhaps it will get in your eyes again, some day.’ They stepped back and seemed to merge with the darkness.”