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Monday, February 18, 2013

Philip Pearlstein

Self Portrait (2000)
"The sexual, psychological and social readings put on my paintings by anyone, even a professional art writer, are beyond my control and certainly beyond my concern."

— Philip Pearlstein
American Artist
1924 -

We live in a world of critics and fault-finders.  Turn on the television and some commentator has a politician in the crosshairs.  As a society, we put people on pedestals and then proceed to throw stones at them.  Creative leaders face these same negative critics and it can feel very personal.  We are emotionally connected to our creative work and when someone attacks our work we can become very defensive.  Even the best artists, writers, musicians and actors have their critics.  For me, actors have it the worst.  Not only do they face criticism of their creative work, but also their physical appearance.  I appalled by these commentators who criticize what the actor or actress is wearing.

Pearlstein is on target with these comments.  Criticism is beyond our control.  We cannot stop others from attacking us.  The key is how we respond.  If we let it hurt us, it can damage our future creative work.  If we believe it to be true, we may change our creative work to please the public.  We must learn that it doesn't matter what other people say.  What is most important is what our heart tells us.  We must trust ourselves and not be swayed by the opinions of others.

I once shared some of my short stories that I wanted to publish with another writer.  She told me that my male characters weren't real men.  My response was to back off and stop writing stories.    Not a good response, I admit.  I let another person's negative comments change what I did.  And I am sure this as happened to some of you.

Some people have learned to harness the negative energy of others as a motivator.  The negativity inspires them to prove the person wrong.  In an introduction to psychology class in a junior college, the professor told my wife that she would never graduate from college — that she was not smart enough.  My wife transformed this negative feedback into the inspiration to finish college with honors.

How do you handle criticism?  Do you back off and stop doing what you were planning to do?  Or do you transform the criticism into a positive force in your life?

Creative Practice
Identify the negative, fault-finding people in your life.  Ask yourself if you need and want this person in your life.  If you don't, then let him go.  Negative people in our lives are very destructive.  They can cause emotional, mental and physical harm.  If you love the person and still want him in your life, then find a way to transform the person's negativity into a positive force.

Background of Artist
Philip M. Pearlstein was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1924.  During the Great Depression, his father, David Pearlstein, sold chickens and eggs to feed and support the family.  His parents were very supportive of Philip's interest in art and sent him to the Carnegie Museum of Art for classes.  His studies were interrupted by World War II.  He was drafted and was stationed in Italy where he was exposed to much of the art in Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.  After the war with the help of the G.I. Bill he finished his schooling and moved to New York City.  He was a realistic painter in a time when abstract expressionism was the dominant form of painting.

Pearlstein married Dorothy Cantor in 1950 and they had three children.  He spent much of his career as a professor at Brooklyn College.

Here is a video with Pearlstein and others discussing his work.