Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Letter to an Artist

(This is a piece I wrote after reading a blog post by Felicia Day titled "Surprising Encounters." I had heard about Mike DeStefano the day before and had been looking for a way to write about how his tale had affected me. After reading Ms. Day's post, I knew what I wanted to say.)

Art is surprising. It reaches, touches people in different ways. And what some people bring to it personally - whether it's a disease or past experience or dream - determine what people take from it.

On Sunday, a stand-up comedian, Mike DeStefano, passed away. (You might remember him from the last season of Last Comic Standing.) Only 44, he had had a hard life being HIV positive and a recovering heroin addict. He had turned things around, first as a addiction counselor and then as a stand-up. Mike had a gruff, almost confrontational personality, and it showed onstage and off. Because of that, he wasn't my favorite comedian although I respected his talents.

Yesterday, when news of his death spread on Twitter, people gave remembrances of him. One of them was surprising. It was a storytelling festival in Austin where Mike told a moving tale of the grandest thing he ever did. The video follows:

This is why I will always remember Mike DeStefano. The story is incredible and perfectly told. Not that there aren't moments that he doesn't break and stumble and reach for words. It's that he does and that's what that story deserved. I'm not saying that it was performance. Just the opposite. It was heartfelt, real, honest.

The best of art is all of that - it is created with passion and emotion and honesty.

That's what makes your work so wonderful, Felicia. You bring a passion and honesty to it that shines through. You show us who you are - whether it's an artist who creates a series that expresses what it's like to be a gamer, making people feel less alone; or a life-traveler who pushes her own visions into reality, inspiring others to start their own artistic pursuits; or a celebrity using your popularity online to support a worthy cause - and that is all it takes to be wonderful.

You echo because you are who you are and you share that with the world.