Monday, November 9, 2009

Roberta Report

I went warily to hear Roberta Smith speak last week, because she has become such a standard, a voice in my mind; I didn’t want to leave disappointed, like I did when I went to hear Al Green in Coney Island a few years back. I didn’t.

She spoke in metaphors and a lot about how art making and art viewing is an experience, albeit a mysterious and personal one, requiring not only self-awareness but awareness in general. In fact, she said art was a way to become conscious. It’s true. I had never put it into words like that and that will stick with me as a reason why I love/hate it so.

Her personal path was familiar: love, terror, depression, therapy, terror, therapy, turning thirty-five, coming in to her own voice. In terms of the power she wields, she spoke of it mostly in terms of credibility; that if she hadn’t built up the latter, she would not have so much of the former. She also put it into perspective, reminding us that what she does is ephemeral; an artwork has the potential to last much longer than the weight of her words. That’s true. Still, I wouldn’t want a bad review from her.

I went up to her at the end, and told her that her writing “sustained” me. That was a little hokey, sure. But, I’m glad I told her.

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