Artstars as Ordinary People

The Artstars by Anne Elliot
Indiana University Press, Publication date: 10/01/2019, ISBN: 978-0-253-04436-5

The characters in the collection of stories by Anne Elliot, entitled The Artstars, have art degrees. For each one you might say that Art is their life but, with one exception, not their livlihood. Any practicing artist in any medium will recognize the existential struggles of the mostly ordinary people who are the Artstars.

The collection of stories, and the lives of the main characters are intertwined. Each story is narrated by a different voice. In the first story, Light Streaming from a Horse’s Ass, the narrator addresses the main character as you. I wasn’t sure if she was talking about herself, or a variation of me or you the Artist. By describing the actions of the main character to the main character, she managed to convey admiration. The narrator is asserting that the process of creating and living with oneself and others is of interest, and might even matter.

These characters are not Rockstars, or Superstars. They are Artstars, twinkling with mystery that they themselves must reveal. But the route is always circuitous and rarely predetermined. The Artstars, with the ordinary challenges everyone faces living in New York City, persist in the face of poverty, ridicule and just plain indifference.

Although the book is a collection of short stories, they come together almost like a novel. There is a sense of the passage of time, a span which includes the events of September 11, 2001. Instead of building to a dramatic revelation near the end, each Artstar experiences some kind of transformation in their approach to life and art.

What’s the point of making art? Why do we do it? No one asks these questions more constantly than artists themselves. For those who gave years to Academia it is, perhaps, an even more poignant question. The Artstars doesn’t provide the answers. The stories do shine a light for those in the throes, and maybe those who just wonder what goes on in the minds of their artist friends.

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