“I carried with me into the West End Bar, the White Horse Tavern, a long list of things I would never do:
I would never have my hair set in a beauty parlor. I would never move to a suburb and bake cakes or make casseroles. I would never wear pearls. I would love like a nursling but I would never go near a man who had a portfolio or a set of golf clubs or a business or even a business suit. I would only love a wild thing. I didn’t care if wild things tended to break hearts. I didn’t care if they substituted scotch for breakfast cereal. I understood that wild things wrote suicide notes to the gods and were apt to show up three hours later than promised. I understood that art was long and life was short.”
~ Anne Roiphe, Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason
For over 10 years I sought freedom through the artistic men I encountered. I was young, carefree, and deeply in love with creating art.
I found myself falling head over heels for their creativity and the way they lived their lives. They found freedom in unconventional and bewildering ways. I watched through wide eyes as they used me as a muse. I always wanted to be a muse, who wouldn’t?
I felt I was living in a fairytale.
I learned that the fairytale is not real. Musicians are like magicians. Painters are like pirates.
No one warns little girls about thieves with paintbrushes who turn nightmares into reality—or the magical melodies composed by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. What are deceivers if not great magicians?
Illustrators illuminate flaws. They capture insecurities and fear in ink on parchment. You cannot erase all that lays bare. In the end, we wind up singing the blues and wondering when we will wake up from the illusion.
I wanted to be close to this magic, but I discovered it was all smoke and mirrors. I discovered that in order to be a part of their world, I need to be willing to give up pieces of myself for the sake of their growth and their art. I needed to be willing to give more than receive.
Artists spend hour after hour observing. I learned so much from them. I spent days marveling over the anatomy of a human being.
They taught me about the fragility of my bones, aided in navigating the depths of my mind, and filled my heart with whimsy. I was taught dragonflies have the most elegant body ratios. I have never looked at a dragonfly the same way again.
There was beauty to be found, I hoped.
I convinced myself it would take an artist with art for blood to make me happy. What did I know of these impractical desires? Nothing. What did I know of their discontent? Everything. I admit to being intrigued by their volatile nature. How can someone conjure beauty from such an unhinged spirit? I also admit to being injured by their volatile nature.
To me, they had secret access to the world where I wanted to live. Just being close to their creative process was electrifying. I wanted so much to be loved by these magical human beings.
There was one ghastly flaw in my quest to be deeply immersed in their world. It was not only love I was seeking, but spark. The spark that lit the fire that burned inside of them. The spark that created the beauty. But the question I never thought to ask myself was, “Should I get close enough to touch it?”
Upon this revelation, I thought back upon my experiences. I was wrapped up in their world. A world that was far darker than I could have imagined.
I learned suffering was often their muse when I was unavailable to fill the role. I sought to be close to their bruises, their pain, their deep love, and their anger. It was often the source of their work. And it was those emotions that battered me.
I thought I had to suffer in order to find the magic. I thought I had to suffer to make art. I thought I had to feel pain to feel loved by them.
In reality, that is the biggest lie I told myself.
I did not need to suffer to be creative and loved. I knew I no longer needed to give my heart and body to only become dried paint on a canvas or the inspiration behind a hook and nothing more.
When I no longer held my hand to the flame,I began to sing a different tune. I felt freedom.
Author: Amanda Shaune
Image: Samuel Castro/Unsplash
Editor: Deb Jarrett