Making Art and It’s Pitfalls

There’s alotta crap out there masquerading as Art. Yep, that’s a highly inflammatory opening statement, and I’m not going to be so disingenuous as to state only my own work is true “Art”. This is a firecracker topic; more and more we see the marketing of ‘work’ products whose title may be anything but Art and it is deeply discouraging to both established artists and their collectors.

It is a curious phenomenon; we seem to have moved into a time where any effort (regardless of how ungainly) to make a mark, to put down a color or execute a form magically becomes “Art”. I write some of this off to the overly zealous movement of being “politically correct”, which can actually morph into a curse when it stifles genuine non-punitive interaction. People are afraid to say ” that’s rubbish, not Art” because they fear offending someone with their opinion. That fear of offense has become the directive, not the quality nor impact of the object being viewed. Art is supposed to elicit strong or visceral responses; it lives to be a catalyst in your connecting to your own feelings. Why wouldn’t your opine therefore be valid and worthy of articulation ? Why would you think there is some unwritten Universal Art Etiquette which states you MUST just love all Art and anything that pretends to be Art ? That, my friend, is the antithesis to Art.

On the other side of the fence I’m aware of a stronghold of elitism, which is hardly a new presence in the world of Art, just a wee bit more offensive these days. There are many who assert that if you don’t have gobs of filthy lucre, you shouldn’t have Art. ( seriously). The town of Detroit, Michigan is struggling right now to hang onto their significant Art collection; the city is hurting financially and some feel the Art should be sold off or given to a city that can “afford to keep it”. The legacy of that collection for it’s city and the artistic enrichment of it’s residents is not even a consideration for many of Detroit’s critics. It’s kinda like the Great Art Heist of Philadelphia aka The Barnes Collection, wherein a literally priceless, without peer Art collection amassed over Dr. Barnes’ lifetime, paid for entirely out of his own fortune and maintained quite specifically for the benefit of “the little man”, was summarily stolen after his death by the high-and-mighty in rarified Art atmosphere in Philly society. It is a shame, a dark and dirty shame on those who participated in it.

What I am getting at with all this, you may ask…that very simply, Art needs to have standards even if they vary widely; but standards nonetheless. Your neighbor’s Uncle Ralphie may happily splash watercolor on paper but that does not automatically render it to be Art. Uncle Ralphie may need to study up & woodshed with some Art technique books or classes, won’t hurt him a bit and he may learn something amazing & fulfilling along the way. Telling Uncle Ralphie the truth ( in a considerate manner, of course) about his efforts shouldn’t discourage him but propel him to improve, to heighten his abilities and hone them, that is, if he really is a budding Artist and not a dilettante. Here’s the harsh truth: not everybody is cut out to be an Artist. And that’s okay, no human failing in that. Some folks are hardwired to be surgeons, some architects, some lawyers, some teachers, some writers and some are hardwired to be artists. It’s just the way our lottery of genetic tendencies are meted out, no judgment there. You can righteously enjoy making pretty colors and lines without calling yourself an Artist, which in my humble opine is a sacred title and puts one into sublime celestial company. You wouldn’t think of seriously calling someone a Doctor just because they put a bandaid on , yet people have a passive expectation that putting a brush to canvas/paper mystically imbues a certain profession title, a title which is rigorously, even painfully earned by those who bear it rightfully.

The first five years I painted, I could not bring myself to say I was an “Artist”; I would not cop that lofty designation when I was fairly certain I didn’t deserve it; my work was crap then and that was okay because I was learning. Being an Artist…it was a title to aspire to. After many long years of very hard & devoted study and unrelenting work, sales, shows and earning my way, I now feel I have earned the right to call myself “Artist” and I am deeply proud of that. I observe & pay homage to established standards & methods every time I pick up my brush or knife. I still study daily, always learning, always hungry for more experience, a new technique or substrate I can stretch my boundaries with. I cannot imagine having a puffy ego about being an Artist; it is in all reality a very humbling profession. Art is a very stern taskmistress, can be an unforgiving Muse; that’s fine by me, makes me work that much harder. And just as a P.S., I am not talking about Art students or the efforts of children learning to express themselves; those are critically formative experiences that may indeed turn out an Artist somewhere down the road.

I don’t expect everyone to be crazy for my work; but I do utilize time-honored methods of making my work which I put the respectful dues into learning. I can hold my head up and speak of my work and it’s process; I own that I am an Artist and deserve to be one, and I make Art for everyone, not just those with alotta Benjamins.

While I’m mid-rant 🙂 I’d want to express that not every John,George or Linda with a digital camera & Photoshop is “an Artist” either. Oh my GOD how weary I am of photos being called Art that have no relationship whatever with that skillset ! There are some very curious double standards regarding photography; one well-known & tone-y art association in my region will not permit Artists (who pay hefty fees to be in their annual show) to sell reproductions of any kind; the work must be ALL originals. Yet, they happily take the fees of photographers who exhibit with them and sell the same durned image over and over and over. Go figure. Photogs who are Artists are a very special and rare breed and are comprised by the likes of Annie Liebovitz, William Wegman, Ansel Adams,Robert Capa, Robert Mapplethorpe, Imogen Cunningham, Sandro, to name a varied few. Just sayin’.

I don’t expect all readers to agree with me, that’s okay and a natural metabolite of expressing one’s opinion. I’d just love to develop an environment where the work really matters and the ego of those making the work is not as weighty a consideration. I want to see a community evolve where Art matters for everyone, not just for parasitical art critics and dealers and Rockefeller-esque bankrolls but for everyone: kids, homeless people, elderly, the infirm, soccer Moms,single Dads,Wal-mart workers, great-grandparents, prison guards, teachers,upwardly mobile young Mothers,fast-food employees, well, you get it.

At least I hope you do.

Thanks for taking time to stop by & read my ramblings~
I welcome thoughtful discourse, so chime in if you feel the need. 🙂

Best Regards, Susi

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