The Cost of Excellence
by George Staempfli, 1998
Excellence is a frame of mind. Up to a point it can be learned and cultivated, but the desire for it, like aristocracy, one must be born to. The quest for excellence and the possible arrival near its border depend on many factors. In the field of fine arts, the visual and intellectual demands must include a keen awareness of balance and clarity, as well as reason and intelligence.
The danger of dedication to excellence is the way it leads to isolation. The road to perfection requires a necessary selective austerity, and the everlasting hope of the hermit to turn his loneliness into inspiration. But artistic creation of a high order must also be open to the human spirit with its negative sides, mistakes, and emotional pitfalls: all of them intelligently judged and interwoven.
When Alan Magee paints a wrench or some soiled color tubes, the incredible technical mastery is only a shell for his deep identification with the nature of these objects, their individual forms and their share in the river of life which surrounds them. The accuracy and painterly wealth of his work radiates, beneath the surface, the breadth of his participation, and allows the spectator an awed suggestion of the invisible worlds within.
George Staempfli founded Staempfli Gallery in New York in 1959 and directed the gallery until 1992. He was the Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Huston from 1954 to 1956. Staempfli was also an accomplished artist.