I love the article, but disagree on one point: "[W]hen you attempt to satisfy your personal values without providing any real social value, you get the starving artist syndrome. You may be inspired by work that totally fulfills you, but it won’t pay the bills."
It is true that many artists are all about personal self-expression period ("I" artists), yet I continue to meet "We" (aka Steve's "contributor mindset") artists that are also starving because they themselves denigrate its social value.
I wholeheartedly recommend Alex Grey's The Mission of Art which discusses art's social and spiritual value and how over the centuries art has steadily shifted away from being about higher purpose.
While Alex' work is not my own aesthetic style, there's no denying that his artwork resonates powerfully in spiritual energy and his Chapel of Sacred Mirrors gallery boldly proclaims upon entering his and all the sages' philosophy, " Surrender to Love." Oh, and he's definitely not starving.
"For him, the process of artistic creation holds the potential of transcending the limitations of the mind and more fully expressing the divine spirit. He also believes that art can induce within the viewer an elevated state wherein spiritual states of being are attained." - Wikipedia entry on Alex Grey
While I was in Manhattan in September, besides Grey's gallery I was captivated by Comme des Garcon's fashion designer Rei Kawakubo's SoHo shop. (Plus this time it's absolutely my aesthetic style.) A hushed silence falls as you enter. I have walked into temples and climb mountaintops that had less palpable energy. The clothing was vibrating...spirit infused in matter. For me, there is no greater purpose than being a vessel for the harmonization of matter and spirit, unveiling "heaven on earth".
"When spirit and matter are in harmony, it's as if a third entity is born - that's really the Buddhist "Middle Way." The Middle Way has nothing to do with the notion of being halfway between two opposites. The Middle Way is when spirit and matter are in harmony - when the inherent oneness is realized. Spirit and matter are not two different things, they are aspects of the One. This is the realization of our true nature.
As humans we become identified with matter. Matter includes every subtle and gross manifestation. Matter is anything that can be touched, seen, felt, perceived, or thought. A feeling is matter and emotion is matter, as is a body, a car, or a floor.
The essence of matter is spirit. Matter is animated by spirit, by the life force, and they cannot be separated. Although we can speak about them as if they are two things, if we take away the life force, there is no matter. It's not as if there is dead matter. There is no matter.
Part of realization is moving from identification with matter (which manifests as personality, or "me") to identification with spirit. True enlightenment is when spirit and matter are in harmony...
If we are sensitive, we can feel when environments are awakened [matter and spirit in harmony]. Human beings can be more or less awakened. So can trees or a mountain, canyon, hilltop, or a particular street corner in our neighborhood. When we are sensitive, we can feel these things. When we expose ourselves to that awakeness, to that environment where spirit and matter are harmonized, it helps us awaken. Ultimately, that's what satsang is. That's also what meditation really is. We are exposing ourselves, and then, quite naturally, spirit and matter harmonize [within yourself too]. All of a sudden it just clicks, without you doing anything. The less you do the better.
When we relax and allow this natural harmonization, there is a deep awakening to the beauty of our environment, just as it is, and to the beauty of our own selves. That's the Middle Way, but it's not really in the middle: it's all encompassing." - Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing
Why not make your next artist date (a weekly beauty date with the muse as suggested in The Artist Way) at an unsuspecting place that's not supposed to be 'spiritual'? Feel your way, what draws you? Maybe instead of the gallery, it's the park bench or cafe across the street? What's surprised you?
p.s. Chapter 5 on "Harmonization" in Emptiness Dancing can inspire artists of all kinds. It's one of my favorites in one of my favorite books.
p.p.s. Gotta love Kawakubo's bio: " the designer behind the 'comme des garcons' label, kawakubo, studied philosophy at keio university in her native tokyo. untrained as a fashion designer, but having studied fine arts and literature, she conveys her ideas verbally to her patternmakers..."
And about commes des garcons: "Specialising in the unorthodox, Comme des Garcons is the too-cool-for-school must have label that constantly pushes the boundaries of fashion and design. Whether it be the creation of Guerrilla Stores, which pop up in unlikely places only to disappear just as quickly, clothes constructed around the intangible, or an anti-perfume created to smell like a flower that doesn't exist, Comme des Garcons tops the lust lists of those who believe that envelopes are there to be pushed, fun is to be had, and life shouldn't be taken too seriously."