One of my favorite artists is Henry Rollins. I have always enjoyed his music with Black Flag, but I've become an admirer of his poetry and prose as well. Most recently, he's been writing a regular column of essays for the L.A. Weekly where he writes passionately and intelligently about everything that he experiences. Everything I've read by Rollins combines a somewhat blunt and direct writing style with a probing intelligence that doesn't rely on accepted ideas or concept. He writes what he thinks.
In an August 4th essay for L.A. Weekly titled "On Alan Vega, Artist", Rollins celebrates the life of his friend, but also discusses what a real artist does. By "real" artist, he means one who "were damned to serve the mad monster that raged within them". And by the say, he doesn't consider himself and artist. By not considering himself an artist, he feels that he can spend more time with "acutalization and completion". He gets irratated with those who spend time talking about being an artist. Rollins believes these kind of people are phonies, because they aren't spending time creating art.
"If you really were an artist, why would you bother to tell anyone? I figured if you were, you wouldn't have to tell anyone - they would be telling you".
Rollins essay goes on to praise his friend, Alan Vega, for being a real artist who spent his whole life creating art right up to the end. After 78 years, Vega "closes out five decades of uninterrupted artistic output. The real thing".
Art is something you do. You don't talk about it because you are too obsessed with creating it. Henry Rollins and Alan Vega are artists who help us cut through the bullshit and posing that so much of our contemporary media pushes out as "art".
We need people like Henry Rollins to keep us honest.
We need people like Alan Vega to inspire us with his work and the example of his life.