Robert Fritz Said Artists Can’t Use Art to Work Out Their Problems…


Aside from the fact that it is really stupid and cruel to say this to a student taking your course on creativity, and I was stupid enough to listen to him without objecting…Aside from all that, when Robert Fritz says artists can’t use art to work out their problems, I say, Balderdash! SAYS WHO? SAYS WHO?!!!

Can you imagine what the world would be like without artists who did NOT work out their problems in and through their art?  A world without the likes of, and I am just selecting a few very famous examples from all over the art world:

Edvard Munck’s numerous depictions…

Edvard Munch, "The Scream"
Edvard Munch, “The Scream”










Just in case you doubt that he was rendering his emotional turmoil in pastel and paint, he wrote these sentences on the frame of one of the four known original versions of  what the world now knows as
The Scream:

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.[9]

And where would the world of poetry be without Sylvia Plath.  Surely it would be a milder and less rich place without her magnificent and moving poem, “Daddy”, which I will quote only in part below:

“You do not do, you do not do   
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot   
For thirty years, poor and white,   
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.   
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,   
Ghastly statue with one gray toe   
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic   
Where it pours bean green over blue   
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.   
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du…
The poem continues for several more stanzas which are well worth reading before ending with the incredible punch of:
“…So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,   
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you   
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart   
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.   
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.


A contemporary poet who has for many years mined her life and traumas for art, is undeniably Sharon Olds. But one poet who made art out of exquisite spiritual agonies was the British Jesuit convert,
Gerard Manley Hopkins in the mid-1800s, who wrote what are now called The Terrible Sonnets, terrible because they portray with astonishing depth the  suffering and spiritual anguish he experienced as a parish priest going through the dark night  of the soul. I do not know of any poet, then or now, who has done it better.

This is one of my all-time favorites of Hopkins. But you really need to read it aloud…

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?
   Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
Speaking of artists, does anyone else perhaps believe that Francisco Goya might have been working out something in this painting?
Francisco Goya, "Saturn Devouring his Son"
Francisco Goya, “Saturn Devouring his Son”


Francisco Goya Saturn Devouring Son

But as Robert Fritz said to me in class, and I stupidly took to heart, “ARTISTS CAN’T USE ART TO WORK OUT  PROBLEMS”…

Geee, they can’t? How dumb of me to think they can and do it, all the time.

Remember Franz Kafka? Why do I think he too might have been dealing with his authoritarian father in  such books as THE TRIAL, THE CASTLE, THE PENAL COLONY or a story like “The Hunger Artist”…No, that is impossible, right? After all, artists cannot and do not do such things, not real artists…Not according to Robert Fritz, who is the arbiter of all things art!

Songwriters are notorious for displaying their hearts on their sleeves, as most of us know. But VIc Chesnutt, who later committed suicide, did this in spades, with his song, “Coward.” This song is far too raw and painful to me to place it here as a sound file. But I will give you the lyrics and tell you to look for a version of Vic singing it, as no one can do it better.

The courage of the coward
Is greater than all others
A scaredy-cat’ll scratch ‘im
If you back ‘im in a corner
But I ,I ,I, I am a coward
I, I, I am a coward
Courage born of despair and impotence
Submissive dogs can
Lash out in fear and be
Very, very dangerous
But I ,I ,I, I am a coward
I, I, I am a coward

Anyhow, I think I have made a case for stating that art — which can be used for a great many purposes,  in fact can be used in whatever fashion and for whatever use you want to employ it, because truly there are no rules — most certainly one can work out one’s problems in and through using art. What better way to do so in fact? Better than taking a load of guns and shooting up the nearest  _________! (fill in the blank with the most recent mass shooting locale.)

I welcome my readers to send me examples of artists who expressed themselves or used their problems to make art.  I will add them to the list, especially if you provide a link to an example of their work.

Much love to all,

Pamela Spiro Wagner

Oh, I plum forgot! Here is my own example of using art to deal with problems:

Chained, a colored pencil drawing 17 by 22 inches by pamwagg 2014
Chained Burka Liberty and the Pitbull, a colored pencil drawing 17 by 22 inches by pamwagg 2014

8 thoughts on “Robert Fritz Said Artists Can’t Use Art to Work Out Their Problems…”

  1. Oh, so sorry you must moderate. I had my gravatar name with the Lady Quixote first and my pen name Linda Lee second, and some people were addressing me simply as “Lady”, which struck me as wrong, considering that I am not royalty. So I changed my gravatar name so that “Linda” is first, and, oh dear, more work for my blogging friends!

    You know why Fritz couldn’t handle someone walking away while he was speaking? Fragile ego, of course, masked by a know-it-all narcissistic false persona. His, ahem, package must be very small, to have such an easily bruised ego. 😉


  2. When something is broken, or not working properly, it is said to be “on the fritz”. Now I believe I know where that saying originated.

    Pammy, your awesome art and your brilliant wit never fail to amaze me.



  3. Yes, Julie, I know you were agreeing with me…absolutely! Yes! I know!

    If I belabored the point, it think it is only because I did take his cruelty to heart way too much…
    I could kick myself for doing that. Why do I listen to people who say NEGAtIVE things but not the people who say GOOD things??? It is crazy…If I listened half as much to those who wanted the best for me, and loved me, as I do to those who clearly hate and envy me, and want me to FAIL, wow would I be riding the wave but good!!! I think they do it on purpose, the negative people, because they WANT us to fail, to make their meager productions look better, at least to them, by comparison…Or something!


  4. Pam, I was agreeing with you! I guess I worded it funny. There’s NO PLACE in this world for discrimination. I just had to deal with it myself, actually. The past few days. And I did file a complaint. I’ll tell you later.


  5. Yeah, I get that. And I grok NOW that it was just a ridiciulous thing to say, but the problem is that I did not get it then. At the time I was still recovering from my long hospital stay, which they knew, and was simply being smashed and assaulted verbally in public, by an authority figure who made it his goal to do so every time I raised my hand to say a word in that class, and everyone in the class knew that would happen. That was how routine it was. I could not say a word without his picking on me, until finally I started to leave class early, and on the final day I refused to come back when, after Robert Fritz “dismissed class” then suddenly summoned everyone back for another longwinded discussion of whatever…and I was already exhausted with the bullshit and on my way out the door, so I kept going. But this apparently was such an affront to Fritz’s ego that he actually blacklisted me from the class! I mean this! It seems so silly but he refused to communicate with me after that and left my name off the class email list and I believe now that he would “excommunicate” any silly befuddled classmate should they get it into their heads to reach out to me, in friendship.

    It seems incredibly bizarre for such an uncreative man to have such a hold on people. Or maybe not. After all, it is the glamor of power not art that he has…I did not see any art from him, only a nasty rigidity that bespoke a fear of creativity and an envy of those who actually have it.

    Well, I should let it go, shouldn’t i? After all, for some reason (and I never said a word about this to anyone in that family, but one day they simply asked me if I wanted a refund, AFTER the class was over, by email, and of course I said YES,… so I got my moolah back, after the bullshit and personal smashings I had taken…Yes, they did do that, but without any explanation as to why). So Yes, I will try to let this go, But you know, I did not need my money back. I needed not to be abused in the first place. A little human decency goes a long way….But tell that to the Fritz’s, who are all about money, and abuse, and certainly do not know much about creativity or art, IMHO!

    Peace, Julie.



  6. You are the creator and that means you are the authority on the act of your own creating. No one can tell you they know more about your own art than you! While instructors can advise, you’re still the artist!

    Back in the day, when I studied music composition, I doubt my best composition instructors would have said that. Actually, it was all about notes, phrases, sounds, etc. Problems other than to do with the compositional process or various musical dilemmas were for outside of class. Or should have stayed there. Should we be working out anything of personal nature within our music, well, that was a rather private matter. Our music kept its secrets back in those days, but disclosed it from time to ime to those who listened well.


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