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Fruitful © Lynda Lehmann
Lynda Lehmann : The Artist: "Tortured Soul?"

The Artist: ‘Tortured Soul’ or Joyous Participant?

By Lynda Lehmann

A recent blog entry on addressed the question of the "tortured artist" stereotype. My response is to reject this stereotype, just as I routinely reject other stereotypes. Stereotypes are not only potentially destructive, but also, just so limiting! I think our willing reliance on stereotypes reflects a pattern of reductionist thought that is the byproduct of Western culture's move into the technological fast-lane. In preferring sound-bites and labels and simplistic axioms, we seem to have lost our appetite for both the proper use of language and for exacting articulation. This trend cheats us of the opportunity to give our ideas their fullest meaning, or to exchange ideas in a meaningful way.

I for one, do not want to be included in this class of people who are considered "tortured artists." I know many people who are bitter, negative, moody or withdrawn, and they are not artists! Likewise, I know many artists who have balance and perspective as very evident traits in their personalities, who at the same time, are capable of great creative vision, passion, and works of commitment and imagination.

For me, art and design have been a source of joy in my life since the time long ago, when I first played with "Colorforms" as a small child. In my adult life, viewing the art of other artists, both the great and the less well-known, and doing my own art, have buoyed me to ride out the ups and downs of our everyday world, and lifted me beyond whatever sadness or despair I may feel.

I would make the point that there are people in every field of endeavor who are evolved, stable, self-aware, and competent, and also in every field, those who are self-indulgent, biased, regressive, or even "insane." (I define insanity as the insistent, possibly lifelong repetition of behaviors that yield neither benefit nor satisfaction, but that is another discussion.) For this reason I dislike the stereotype of the artist as a tortured soul, and don't accept it. Though I will concede that artists may produce their greatest works at times when their equilibrium is upset by events and the universality of human suffering, their own or other's, many artists are quite conscious of peace and social justice issues, and they are often outward-looking and active in the pursuit of solutions.

Moreover, I find that most artists I've known love to share and communicate, as well as to enjoy the immutable and ubiquitous beauties of the world. To the artists of the world I say: Ignore the stereotypes and create in joy! •

© 2006 Lynda Lehmann. All rights reserved.

Painting by Lynda LehmannAbstract Expressionist painter Lynda Lehmann studied Art Education at Penn State University and earned her BFA from Hofstra. More »