CoviDiaries: Gary Panter on the Point of Making Pointless Things

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In order to make the creative world feel a bit less lonely and a bit more connected in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been publishing a new blog series—CoviDiaries—that brings us into the homes and minds of various designers, illustrators and other professionals, to see how they’re coping. Here’s a communique from cartoonist and artist Gary Panter in Brooklyn.

As a person who lives alone and has no TV watching habits, it is easy for me to be alone more. I like people and know way too many people, so I am not neglected. To feel neglected makes people feel lonely. I feel lonely sometimes, but time alone is one of my friends. I know friends and loves are out there.

What will I do with myself? I am an artist. It gives me joy and a sense of meaning to make things. Even pointless things. Maybe especially pointless things. Maybe pointless things contain unconscious truths or questions. Who knows?

In America, worth is mostly measured by fame or money. That’s what people think and it confuses them about art. There is a vast system for selling art and thinking about art tied to money and fame and analysis. And we all need encouragement and to pay the rent, so we are susceptible to the delusions of fame and money in America.

GP 3 2020

But with art, the point is: You got to make it. You were able. You got to spend time quietly or loudly bringing something that was not in the world into the world. Maybe something like something before. Maybe something no one wants. It doesn’t matter. You chose to spend the time trying to do something for private personal satisfaction or frustration. Choose either one. Art is time spent doing some little thing that tells you something about yourself. Maybe something very quiet and maybe a revelation, and maybe only quiet. The thing you make may have some value to others for some reason or another, but that is a secondary issue. You spent time trying. The secondary issues come secondarily.

GP 3 2020

In America everyone expects to achieve. But in life, trying, simple trying, has great value.Try it out. Lower your expectations to achieve some pleasure in the doing of something.

Something. Drawing. Arranging. Sorting. Collecting. Coloring. Washing, Planting. Writing. Singing. Dancing. Editing. Collaging. Cooking. Stirring. Molding. Casting. Pasting. Making playing card towers. Playing records. Face-painting.

Not for fame and glory. Not to please others. For simple quiet trying. In the company of time alone. At first it might feel crappy. But if you do something for a while you start feeling differently. Put on “No Expectations” by the Stones.