Untamed passion stirs in all of us, but it seems much more obvious in artists, since we live out loud.
And how does one tame this raw undeveloped passion which we are born with and destined for?
It is not easy. I used to think that the passion to paint was just learning to paint or write well. It is so much more. It is not something we do, it is who we are, warts and all. We must take ownership of the artistic temperament, its ups and downs, its uncertainties and blessings.
Artists take many paths in finding themselves and their places in society. Some run from it by denying it, some fight it and others have an insatiable desire to understand the whys of it and channel it. For me I have found that God has used the uncertainties of the arts to teach me about the uncertainties in myself. He has used the passion of the arts to channel the passion that lies in my own heart.
This reminds me of a movie that seems to bring this thought to full fruition. It is one of my favorite old movies and each time I watch it I gain a little more understanding. The original idea, “O Pioneer,” was written by Willa Cather and is a Hallmark Presentation Movie with the same title. Cather wrote the story using metaphors to develop the characters and the theme is taken from a familiar poem by T. S. Elliott. The characters with their untamed passions are faced to tame the Nebraska frontier at the turn of the century.
At the age of 21, Alexandra Bergson, played by Jessica Lang, is left with the dying wish of her father, which is to take care of the family and the land. She sees the future in the steady unmovable harsh land of Nebraska. Alexandra’s vision and passion for the land stirs inside of her, just as surely as the wind stirs the grass that grows on the land which she identifies with.
Carl Lindstrum, on the other hand, is an artist and a lifetime childhood friend of Alexandra. He takes a different path in finding himself and conquering the passion that stirs in him. He is like a seagull caught between two oceans. Not knowing who he is and what he is searching for, he leaves the land to travel from shore to shore looking for what he is missing. There are also two young lovers who are tormented by passion and cannot tame their desires, brothers who stay and work the land and who carry a passion of resentment, and along with these, the old barefooted prophet whose spells come from God, and is thought to be crazy, but he knew the secret for life.
The scene in the movie opens 15 years later with a package from Carl. It contains watercolor paintings of the memories of the days in Nebraska when he was a young man. He is always reaching back to the friendship with Alexandra and that part of his life that he runs from.
As the story weaves through these characters, Alexandra knows her place and remains loyal and waits with the land. Carl finally comes home and finds the place where he started and knows it for the first time.
T. S. Elliott writes:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
As artists, I believe we are always searching and exploring for finality in the uncertain field of the arts. We will not find finality in the arts but in ourselves. We want answers for the passion that lies deep and dormant within us but we cannot attain it by only doing well.
The final brushstroke: Our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier and the thing that we desire will tame us.
Comments from readers
“In your article, ‘Riding off without the Horse,’ I would suggest to consider distinguishing between the ego mind and the truly creative or higher mind. To me, the ego mind distracts us from connecting with truth and the divine and true inspiration.
“The artist need not know very much; best of all let him work instinctively and paint as naturally as he breathes or walks.” — Emil Nolde.