Catharsis and Celebration

07/12/2010 03:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One of my dearest friends, a talented filmmaker whom I have known since kindergarten, recently threatened to discontinue work on our latest project; a commercial featuring NYC poets and musicians promoting our new printed collection of art and literature, Fogged Clarity 1. He felt the aesthetic of the final version was too somber, and that the final line: "The Beautiful Ache Comes to a Head" was vague and pretentious. I fought him, and maintained that while the commercial might be a tad effusive, it conveys the appropriate mood, and that the concluding sentence is a perfect embodiment of the collection we had released.

Our conflict was simply the latest manifestation of a conversation we've been having for years. A conversation which begins with me suggesting that most great art is a product of suffering, and ensues with him stating that art is a celebration of life, love and happiness, and accusing me of being a brooding masochist.

Prompted by this latest dispute surrounding both art and the commercial, I did some honest reflection and discovered I have little room to protest his claim. The art that I am attracted to all seems, in one way or another, to be an exposition of some mercurial ache present in the human experience. Perhaps the ache is not felt by everyone, and perhaps it is not mercurial at all, but can be plainly labeled mortality. Whatever it may be called, I have found it is palpable in most of the art I love. Without hurt, without awareness of conclusion, I wonder if the sublime can exist.

I recently listened to David Groff reading the late poet David Matias' piece, "Concealed." 2010-07-08-davidmatias.gif
The poem concerns a visit Matias' mother made to his home in Provincetown after he had been diagnosed with H.I.V. The poem made me cry like a child as it always does, but this time I placed the emotion it evoked in the context of my friend's ongoing accusation. I realized that I am no masochist, and finally understood why art makes me cry. The tears come not because the creator hurts and suffers, but because their poem, portrait, story, or song represents an emergence from hurt and suffering. Art gives me hope. These tiny celebrations of living we call art, each one contending with the inevitability of cessation, it is these beautiful, sincere resistances that I love and appreciate.

I shared this new revelation with my friend. He called me melodramatic.