Art draws joy from the unlikeliest sources, doesn’t it? For all the highfalutin things we say about it, for all the heady postmodern theorizing coughed up on its behalf, the thrill and meaning of art boil down to just this: it mines beauty from the everyday grunge of human existence.
Consider this glorious drawing by Sylvie Kantorovitz, an Albany artist and children’s author/illustrator. Sylvie, an old friend, lives just a couple blocks from me in this homey and humble neighborhood packed with friends. The bunch of us have now spent a couple of decades watching our children get older and wiser while we, curiously, do not. (And yes, as a matter of fact, I’ve ALWAYS been gray.)
Sylvie reads my blog, bless her. She saw my post the other day on plungers, plunger-related tchotchkes and my new, exciting role as Shit Lady. Much to my shock and delight, she responded to it with a plunger-themed drawing on her own blog, where she posts an artwork a day.
This one, “New Weapon,” features one of Sylvie’s recurring characters — a lanky regal sort attended by birds — as she toes up to some unseen onslaught with her plunger at the ready. “Life deals a lot of s*** cards. The Queen attacks and moves on,” says the caption.
I love this. How can I NOT love this? I would love it even if Sylvie weren’t a friend of mine, even if she hadn’t drawn it in response to my blog post, even if I hadn’t written a book with a plunger on the cover, even if I’d never discovered my mid-to-late-life calling as a discombobulated shit-prophet with her head in the stuff. You needn’t be stricken with early widowhood to realize that life will find a way to dump a steaming pile in your path some time or other, be it illness or the pain of divorce or a howling plague of lice and gnats upon the land.
Personally, I have never had to deal with lice. Neither on my land nor on the heads of my progeny; that shit has avoided me so far. (Gnats are another story.)
But Sylvie’s drawing got me thinking, again, about the gift of creation — and the creative urge itself. What better way to cope with the shit we’re given than to make something of it? Something beautiful, affirming, infectious, hilarious, inspiring? Something just a little bit less smelly and repulsive? Anyone who sings the blues knows that shit sounds damn good with flattened thirds. And it should. It’s our most abundant medium, the unrefined ore from which we craft our lives — so we may as well make it interesting. We may as well make it art.