Below, I’ve posted, unedited and with permission, a friend’s recollection of her brief encounter with Prince. I had been waiting for a good moment to post this one, but given that the method of his passing is in the news today I could hardly think of a better opportunity. I’ve added a couple brief thoughts of my own below the quote:
“I’ve been struggling with how to express these memories but maybe it will never really come out quite right anyway so here goes. I delivered him room service very early in the morning and expected a bodyguard to answer the door, but Prince did and I surmised he hadn’t wanted to wake the bodyguard who was napping on the couch. He wasn’t unfriendly — he made me feel very respected and appreciated. But the boundaries were clear. I was glad I managed not to panic, as it was a very human moment seeing him like that in a robe and gushing would have been wrong. He was up early working on something in a hotel in Dayton, Ohio. I saw that everything was all about the art. I also saw that he felt the weight of being an employer. That was when I understood that the mystique (not giving interviews etc.) wasn’t aloofness at all, or any type of gimmick. It was that he wanted so much for the art to be separated from and outlast him as a persona or even as a person. Not all eternal artists choose that path. Maybe he had to. In the end having a close-up personal encounter taught me that from the outside, through his art, was probably the best way to actually really know him.” – Beth
These thoughts, so well articulated, made me contemplate the tension which one must live in when creating art. “Art” meaning one’s life’s work – the outpouring of one’s vocation. How much can, or should, our output into the world be distinct from our struggle to be known by others? Does that struggle itself have value, and should our art endeavour to capture it? Or, perhaps like Prince, is it more honouring to our work and to those which receive it, to heavily separate our own struggle from the struggle which the art is more concerned with depicting?
Finally…is it more noble and worthwhile for our art to withstand our mortal passing, and to communicate to those that come long after we are a distant memory? Or is some art, perhaps even most of it, meant for the here and now, its contributions infusing life and meaning into those closest to us and paving the way for those that come after to create even deeper worlds of meaning?