What do people expect from art anyway?
I’ve been on a mental digestive tract for a few days now. Mulling over ideas, shitting them out, consuming them again and excreting them from my mental pores.
I know, prosey right? Maybe I sound a bit… oh I don’t know… like the stereotype of an arrogant creative that speaks in prose instead of logic. Like I’m perched on a pedestal like I want you to see me as a creative monarch, oh look at how clever I am. But that’s not what I want. Or rather, that’s not where my mind is at (today… give me a few hours and this moment won’t be here and I’ll say something completely different, so best I write this down now).
The poo in my brain is, Am I an Artist. Am I really? Or have I been one, and has how I been seeing myself been wrong all this time?
Friends who know me may find themselves initially wanting to console me from this twisting, saying I am being too self critical. I however see constant self analysis as very VERY Important, And I think it’s part of my process to do so publicly. Not because I want you dear reader to answer my questions, but because I want you to ask your own. Trust me, while I enjoy the dialog I am comfortable in making this process mine. My creative journey is my own bus to drive after all.
So what is the point of this question? Am I an artist?
What I have been developing over roughly the past decade is a war between technical practice and my ideas. The war has it’s base in literal interpretation vs expressionist surrealism. I have made the mistake of letting other people pull on me too much, resulting in being technical, only looking at the surface. Doing a lot of head shots, letting self doubt win because of the danger of rocking the boat too much. Don’t be vulgar, don’t be too weird, try to keep things simple so that the layperson can understand.
That last bit… When I listen to people talk about art, the layperson thinks often that fine art isn’t for them. It’s for the educated and the upper class. People who shop at Whole Foods and think their education and their financial status makes them better than everyone else. That fine art is more about this obscure notion of value, and the language it can speak seems obtuse. I want to argue that you don’t need to know anything to look at contemporary art. That not liking a certain piece or artist or movement in the past or present doesn’t make you an illiterate buffoon. People have no qualms saying they prefer certain musicians, songs, genres, in music. People don’t think they can’t enjoy music because they don’t enjoy it all, and it’s never assumed you need a pedigree to begin to listen to music like how people think of fine art today.
I don’t like the classist divide, I think it’s a false equivalency of culture and it’s a wall that needs to be destroyed. Not for commercial purposes, but simply to appeal to the possibility of being more open to something new.
It’s my feeling that we as a culture hunger for new, but we hate it and fear it as well. We carve deep grooves to protect ourselves.
Am I an artist? If I am going to be honest with myself… I would say I have been working more like a craftslady than an artist for the past whatever years. Because I have been focusing more on the technical aspects of work. When I look at what I’ve done…. I find it boring, cliche, kitsch. What Am I Doing To Challenge Myself? Or other people? Does my work have big hairy balls (metaphorically speaking because literally there have been very few guys represented in my work). I would say, I have been playing it safe, and that’s no longer good enough.
We carve deep grooves in ourselves, telling ourselves the story of who we think we are. Like a wagon wheel on an old roman road. It’s fine to stay there, but with a track so well worn, you probably can tell where that road is likely to take you, barring storms that wash the road away or disasters that block the path. If you force your donkey eyes to stop looking at the pavement and look up, ask yourself is that really the likely place you want to be? There’s no shame in that.
To go into why I have been playing it safe is too long a story. It has to do with failed relationships, failed journeys, failed friends, failed attempts at things I wanted over and over. Most of all, putting effort into things that didn’t return in kind. So imagine me like a three-banded armadillo in a tight ball. Rolling where the path of gravity leads, the easy way of taking easy non-creative non-challenging work while trying to be creative. Satisfying or achieving in neither.
I don’t see the path I’ve been on as a mistake. My personal philosophy is life is a journey, and sometimes it takes us to places we don’t want to go but need to be. The problem unfortunately is is how this affects my public persona. All eyes are on everyone everywhere. To admit mistake, or failure, or any kind of fall from grace is shame and damnation. I’m supposed to instagram all my happy bits. Show you my tits, let you think I am successful, loved, happy, always. Lets all pretend we are cotton candy and adventurous.
But that’s not real to me. I know you’re not happy, not all the time. I know you have doubts, that there are moments where theres a pain you feel but don’t want to acknowledge. And… I know there’s a beauty and strength in that if you are willing to face the darker parts and wind through them like an ouroboros chasing your tail to both eat and transform yourself. I listen to people (more than they think). It’s not my position to define truth or to tell people who they are or to judge them, this isn’t about any of those things. What I’m listening for is the river, a current that has all these different levels and temperatures and clarity and access to light and shadow. Things that we think separate us from one another, but don’t.
Am I an artist? Unfortunately yes. It’s not something I can break from no matter how much parts of me try. I wish it could be easier, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Now that I’m at this pesky crossroads of career and age and this strange moment in time I find myself in, what my goal is now is to break everything I have done, take shards (because you can’t move forward without bringing a little of what you knew before with you), and rebuild. I have all this technical knowledge, and I should use it. This means I’ll likely make a lot of garbage, I’ll probably embarrass myself (or rather I will feel that way). What will be hard but what needs to happen is change my approach to how I work, to stop second guessing and to stop trying to control everything. Turn everything from an illustration to an experiment.
And I invite you to watch, O two or three blog readers.
I’ve been questioning writing any of this down, but I am trusting the instincts I have when I mediate, which is to publicly record this process, even when it’s not something I want or even if it doesn’t make sense to me.
In a few days I have to travel to take care of some family matters. I’ll try to give myself chances to muse and sketch but I think getting back to the studio proper may be a week or two.
So yeah, bear with me. Hopefully it’ll be marginally interesting.