As an artist, this question haunts me. Let’s say that my novel makes it into print. Will anyone remember or care after ten years? Twenty? One hundred?
Why should I spend the precious hours of my life toiling over this work that probably won’t outlive me? Your answer, if you’re an artist, is probably like mine; I’m compelled to create. The troubling question remains. We all want to create a legacy that will be handed down from generation to generation. So, can we influence the odds?
Around Christmas, I had the unscheduled joy of visiting the tire store, and as I sat in the lobby surrounded by other customers, flipping through magazines and playing with phones, “Merry Christmas, Darling,” sung by Karen Carpenter began to play.
Music has enormous power to trigger memories, and Karen’s rich alto voice took me back to my teens in a single heartbeat with echoes of yesterday. Knowing she died when she was only 32 years old 1983, brought home the poignancy of listening to her voice almost 30 years later.
Musical performances have only recently attained the potential to outlive the performer. We don’t have any recordings (that I could discover) of Franz Liszt, perhaps the greatest pianist ever, due entirely to the late development of recording technology. Thankfully, his work lives on through his written compositions.
How can we, as artists, increase the odds of creating a legacy that echoes through time, outliving us, and continuing to be relevant? I came up with four ways:
Ultimately, the longevity of an artist’s work is determined by others. The audience decides whether they appreciate the work enough to share it. One generation hands it down to the next–or not. Others decide whether or not to curate the artist’s work, either publicly or privately. An artist’s work lives or dies in the hands of others.
Will your work stand the test of time?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please leave your comments below.