There are some words in some languages that can’t be said as a single word in other languages. So there must be words used in American English that don’t translate well. But you’d have to be fluent in the second language to know what they are. And if you are not, and most of us AmEng speakers are not, you probably can’t think of one—other than “trump,” that is.

Love” is another word that is untranslatable. But not because it has a meaning that simply doesn’t work outside of its home culture; it doesn’t work because is simply has no meaning. It has no meaning because for everyone who uses it, it expresses something different. One person saying “I’m in love!” predicts nothing about what they are going to do next.

Art” (as a process not a product) is meaningless in a somewhat similar sense. Is it a career, a passion, just a job or worse a con job? When anyone shouts, or sighs, “I’m an artist” it’s, as it is from a lover, a meaningless declaration, useless for determining what will be done next.

. . .

The “I’m an artist” declaration expressed visually here is a mix of a German word, torschlusspanik, that means a kind of panic about all the opportunities no longer possible (maybe with some of the Czech litost, which sorta means an unexpected and unpleasant realization of torschlusspanik, added) and a not-word that express the sadness of loss for some -thing, -place, -time, -relationship mixed with guilt over feeling so while knowing that whatever it was it probably never existed. There are Welsh, Japanese, Portuguese words (hiraeth, natsukashii, and saudade) that come close, but none of them quite get there.

The drawing shows an artist doubting that he ever could express those unrealized opportunities and fantasized memories through an [art] object skillfully enough to be communicated to anyone looking at the object. He even doubts that he can even express his doubts about expressing them.

Furthermore, the artist—a meta-artist—who made the drawing also feels the same panic, sadness guilt and doubt as the artist he’s illustrated. It’s “concrete expressionism” and a PoMo mise en abyme, isn’t it? Whatever any of that means.