Putting It Together

THE very daunting thought of starting something new is one that often leads to cold feet, high stress, and eventual abandonment. How many fantastic ideas and initiatives I wonder fell away to nothing after their creator began doubting their own worth and the quality of what they were doing?

The great Renaissance man Michelangelo often succumbed to bouts of self doubt, and it is well recorded that when he felt a piece he was working on was weak or not turning out as he had envisioned, he would attack it with a chisel and hammer, often destroying great sculptures he had spent years laboring over.

Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, never completed another novel after the gargantuan success of her debut, because she felt nothing would ever live up to people’s expectations. Who knows if anything else would have? Who is to say that it wouldn’t have been even greater?

In Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday In the Park with George, based on the life and work of the French Post-Impressionist painter George Seurat, there is a song entitled ‘Putting It Together’. The song appears mid-way through Act II, and is set at the opening of an exhibition of the works of Seurat’s great-great grandson. As viewers and critics mill about and question the worth of the pieces on display, the artist questions the value of their opinions, the value of his own work, and the value of himself. The song is a complex, polyphonic and multi faceted, but its message is clear:

 “The art of making art is putting it together,

bit by bit,

beat by beat,

part by part,

sheet by sheet,

chart by chart,

track by track,

bit by bit,

reel by reel,

pout by pout,

stack by stack,

snit by snit,

meal by meal,

shout by shout,

deal by deal,

spat by spat,

spiel by spiel,

doubt by doubt,

and that… Is the state of the art.”

“As viewers and critics mill about and question the worth of the pieces on display, the artist questions the value of their opinions, the value of his own work, and the value of himself.”
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