This is the pull quote on the back of Geoffrey Dorfman’s marvelous book Out of the Picture: Milton Resnick and the New York School, a compilation of interviews and lectures.
It’s absolutely irrelevant what galleries and critics and people who buy your paintings think. They just don’t have any possible idea of what happens to you and they’re really not that interested. As a matter of fact, they hate the idea that anything really happens to you. They want you to be a genius and that’s it. You have to be wonderful–that’s all there is to it. Then, anything that you happen to do gets to be part of the wonderful thing that you are. But what is a great deal of importance to you is what do you do when you paint. How does it change you? What does it make of you? Because you are certainly not the person who should be painting a painting. None of you are. None of us are. We cannot live without our place in things and the place in which we live does not make room for painting. We are doing something contrary to our place and time and as long as we remain what we are, all we can do is indicate our opinion. In other words, art becomes our opinion about ourselves, our times, and our place; and of course that is not really painting.
This is one of the most profound statements I’ve ever read by another American painter of the 20th century. Resnick focusses on the monastic practice necessary to accessing the deep experience that is specific to painting. And which very few painters seem to understand. Most painters are entirely closed to this experience because they aren’t interested in what painting does to them but instead are caught up in the deadening search for technical perfection. Technical perfection of what?
Resnick strikes the exact note in the first sentence. It’s absolutely critical that painting, if one is to ever enter into the state necessary to go anywhere, is attempted without regard to galleries, critics, or collectors.
Pieter Bruegel, in his drawing of the Painter and the Connoisseur (c. 1565), gives us an indelible image of the timeless divide between the world of the artist and the world of the viewer. The disheveled artist with the downturned mouth and furrowed vs. the genial gawking of the connoisseur, hand on money bag.