Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reflecting on the Value of Making Art in a Society That Thinks Art is Either a Cute Little Hobby or for Romantic But Useless Souls That Are Easily Dismissed for Their Silly Irrelevance. (Subtitle: A Small Amount of Self-Pity Might Be Encountered Here - Be Warned)

It's not so uncommon to have a bit of post-project letdown after a big project is completed.  For months, life has a definite purpose - and deadline.  No question arises about how to organize the day or even one's thoughts.  The goal is relatively clear and the clock is (always) ticking.   There is a beautiful simplicity to it all.

What if you have TWO big projects and two smaller projects?  Is the post-project letdown two- or three- or four-times greater?  Especially if one of them involves driving part-way across the country and back, having your name emblazoned on the wall and the world's best newscast/performance art piece as a result?

In my case, the answer is: no.  I thought I might get sick just because of general exhaustion but I even dodged that bullet (thank you, yoga).  No illness, no depression, no sense of listless aimlessness.  Yet, it has caused me to reflect a bit on some various things that came up during and around the process of making these project - things people said and how the whole crazy time seemed to be perceived by those around me.

I'll start with the many times that I heard something along the lines of "you mean, they just emailed you and asked you to make a show?" as if this was an unbelievable thing that should never had happened.  It was usually followed by some exclamation of how amazing it was.  And it was amazing!  I know I teeter on the edge of a level of success with my art that the vast majority of people who go to art school never see.  At the same time: 30 years, people.  I have been at this thing for 30 years.  Or even longer if you start counting when I wrote that little piece in Grade One saying that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.  And I kind of do.  Starting counting from then, that is.

I have been working as an artist and working seriously at it - meaning it has been my first concern (well, until I had children but even then it was a close second), my main career and vocation - for a long, long time.  If, finally, someone throws me a bone, well, it's about time!  If someone were a doctor, lawyer, bricklayer, car mechanic or florist for that long, I think few would act so surprised if they received a bit of recognition for their work.  Am I right?  So what's up with it when it comes to art making?  Is it because we still believe that making art isn't work?  Or that it is work but of a nature that doesn't deserve to be recognized or paid or both?  Why?  Because it seems rewarding or fun or that the people doing it aren't having their souls crushed beneath the giant oppressive boot of The Man?

These pre-project exclamations of disbelief that I was not only invited to make a project but paid to do it have been followed by comments about how I was essentially galavanting across the country on a lark, leaving behind others to do the "real" work.


Of course this kind of attitude does infect my own thoughts far too frequently.  Is what I do really of use to anyone?  Am I benefitting the world or just a waste of space and resources?  When I presented this dilemma to a person who is far wiser than myself, he simply asked me, "do you want to live in a world without art?"

Yeah.  I think it really is that simple.


shawn o'hagan said...

yup. it is.

Michelle S. said...

I have had the same discussion with my 18 year old son. Simply put, it is indeed impossible to imagine a world without art. Who the heck would want to live in that place?!

Patti Blaine said...

Emphatically: No, I do not! Nor do I want to live in a world without your art.

Jan Morrison said...

Oh that snake pit! And they probably meant it as a positive stroke too! In which one says ever so kindly "yes, it is amazing that it is so hard to get recognized as an artist! What a fucked up world, neh?" Keep on keepin on, my love - there is nothing for it but work. But I know you know that.