Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Public Arena

Part of the difficulty I've faced when discussing my art are the sideways questions that amount to, “Don’t you think you’re being naive?” The talk of statistics, how so few artists “make it.” And how the term “making it” is used when what they really mean is “making a living from it.”

I've been wondering lately…

Who decided the purpose of making art was to make a living?

Making money from our art can be fulfilling and even add a level of joy to our work. But it isn't the point of going to the page, the canvass, the piano, the stage. The point of showing up is to make art, not money.

Demanding that all artwork be backed monetarily means demanding that all artists put themselves under the scrutiny of the public eye. And that eye can be toxic.

The world is full of blocked creatives whose fear of embracing their own art causes them to denounce the fledgling muse of an individual new to the craft. Making a leap of faith takes courage, and it is easier to belittle another's attempt than it is to make the jump for oneself.

“Trend” and “tradition” are tossed about as if the only good art belongs to the past and those who follow in its rigid footsteps. Being creative involves leaving tradition behind, which is a frightening prospect to some.

The public eye is quite fond of measuring the baby steps of a creative toddler to the great strides of an artistic pro. We don't test kindergartners on advanced algebra, yet somehow a young artist is required to know how to navigate a project while adhering to ever-changing whims and staying true to their unique voice.

All of these things feed a beginner’s dark inner dialogue. We hear individuals claim that “they don’t make music like they used to.” Fans of realism sneer at the wobbling lines of a modern sculpture, meant to say more than stark edges ever could. Critics tell us the firewalls of business are meant to keep the riff raff out.

We doubt ourselves. We doubt our art. And we stagnate.

It doesn't have to be this way.

If we truly seek to have better art (as opposed to rigidly hunting more of the same), we must nurture the gawky seedlings. We must learn the difference between criticism and shaming (the former asks, “How can this be made better?” while the latter claims there’s nothing worth saving).

If we want to have more variety, we have to embrace the idea of different paths. We cannot continue to hold one method of delivery as more sacred than another (i.e…the ridiculous declaration that indie artists are ruining their respective genres).

To grow art, we must be willing to grow artists. And growth is a painful and sometimes ugly process. But if the desired outcome is flow, it won’t be achieved by standing still.

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