“When a true genius appears in the world,
you may know him by this sign, that the dunces
are all in confederacy against him.”
I’m often asked if I like living in Boulder, if I like the work that I do, if I think I’ll stick around or keep moving. My answer is always infused with stalling and stuttering as I attempt to answer that question, for my self and my inquirer. I feel seduced into shipwreck by the beautiful song of our “city,” sinking easily into the comfortable life I have cultivated here, and often forget about the feelings of inspiration and flow of ideas and ambition that I feel in the great beyond. It is only when I leave Boulder that I feel exposed to the more challenging forms and ideas of distant lands and cities and countries, hives of creative progress and institutions of real artistic integrity, and become cognizant of the disparity. Our town is spoiled and gentrified, and for me, stagnant. There are of course many exceptions to this (you know who you are), but I’m generalizing for the sake of my own rumination.
When returning to the comforts of Boulder, the friends and familiar amenities, incessant recreation, and general mind-numbing convenience, I am always reduced back to a lonely and anxious state. I won’t argue that Boulder is an objectively perfect place to live, where the quality of life is shamefully good. But it is found wanting in ways in that more tormented and, dare I say, diverse cities are not. Boulder claims to be so in touch with the rest of humanity, which is a common pitfall of over-privileged places. Our residents enjoy such an elite quality of life that they assume everyone in the world enjoys that same level of happiness and stimulation, thus facilitating their superficial empathy.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love Boulder and its endless opportunity for having fun. But there isn’t much of an iconoclastic “underground” presence with any more substance or value than a Climbing Magazine article, which is how I’ve arrived at this personal stalemate of creativity. It’s only when I leave Boulder that I realize how much more I need to be fulfilled and inspired than perfect weather and vacuous socializing.
In my opinion, true art is bred from conflict, and strife and struggle, and is the manifestation of an attempt to reconcile that pain with the juggernaut of reality that blunders forward without regard for we mere mortals. Art is not the product of “blissing out” or being “psyched,” because there is less to be learned or gained from another person’s boasting about how wonderful their day was or how “enlightened” their worldview. Art is not the product of sunshine and double americano’s, or being healthy, wealthy and white. I wouldn’t argue that one must be oppressed in some way to create true art, but one must at least be in the midst of an existential hurdle that bleeds from the heart onto the canvas, where people like myself can observe and digest and, hopefully, learn something new about ourselves and others and apply that to my own craft.
Art must be contradictory and challenging, and above all subversive, and trying to find anything subversive in Boulder is a fool’s errand. The people here are so concerned with being open minded and worldly that everything is embraced and thus nothing is off-color or edgy. But just because something is created in Boulder, where our humble standards for excellence and originality are based more on the friends we wish to support than our actual opinion of the product, does not necessarily mean that it is a great product or anywhere near the cutting edge. Nepotism is a slippery slope.
I apologize to any readers that take offense from my cynical ventilation. I know that the obvious flaw in my rant is that if I’m not happy with the state of things in the almighty Boulder, then I should either change it with my own contributions of artistry and character, or get the fuck out. Walking a fine line between the former and latter has been a precarious dance indeed for the last 2 years, since I became a “free-lancer,” supposedly capable of pulling art from the proverbial hat, and producing the work I want to be producing with the clients and talent of my choosing.
But alas, it is only upon leaving this utopia that I find my muse…