Love/Hate… or at Least a Vague Dislike
People love Art it’s true. The same, however, cannot be said for the Artists. The public seems to have a real love/hate relationship with them. At least, as the title of this post suggests, a vague dislike.
It’s easy enough to understand I suppose. People love to look at pictures. It’s only natural. Art moves us and engages us. It feeds something inside of almost all of us. It also stands to reason that we would be intrigued by the people who make it. The reality is that most people, when they’re pressed to think of artists, think of hipsters, weirdos, or our dear Uncle Bob. Bob Ross, that is: the pleasant, afro-wearing painter of “Happy Little Trees” on Public Television with the somnambulistic voice. Or potentially worse yet they think of their sweet, but slightly crazy aunt who has too many cats and goes on about “The Universe” too much. Pleasant enough at Thangksgiving, but not someone you’d want to spend loads of time with. Gone are the days when the public was presented with the pop culture icons of the middle of the last century. The flamboyant or just plain bizarre characters of the days of the ‘Artist as Rock Star’ are gone. Some might argue that certain characters in the Art World have risen up to fit the bill. Not one really captures the public’s imagination in the same way as an Andy Warhol or a Salvador Dali. You could argue that the torch has been passed perhaps to the ubiquitous Banksy or maybe Matthew Barney (whom I’ve mentioned before). To be certain there are stars within the Artistic Community that have their fair share of celebrity recognition, but they aren’t household names.
Back to the subject though…
Perhaps the dislike for artists comes from the realization that people come across when they finally get to meet the creator of a favorite piece of work. Few things ever live up to their hype. Artists are, after all, just people who feel motivated to create. Most of us aren’t much to look at and probably don’t stand out in a crowd. I suppose it can be a bit of a disappointment when you find your image of the brilliant artist at work is really just a guy with a couple of kids working out of his basement… possibly with a headcold and maybe a cat. Perhaps our very presence takes away some of the magic. Like learning that the lyrics to a favorite song you’ve been singing along with all these years are wrong, but on the same token they’ve developed meaning for you. You feel let down… possibly even a bit foolish.
I personally feel that a good portion of it is due to Artists being cast in an unfavorable light by the very thing that sets them (us) apart: creating Art for a living. Creating Art is, I believe, perceived by many to be something you do for fun. We all had Art class in school. For many it was a nice break from the “regular” classses. You got to get messy. You got to draw or paint. It was more entertaining than the more academic subjects. Kind of like P.E. Fun yes… but a serious career? No. Anyone who’d attempt to do that is probably a layabout looking for an excuse not to get a “real” job. Oddly enough many of those same folks will pay hundreds to go watch a pro sporting event and never think twice about why a person should get paid millions to play a game you played in school as a kid or why you have to pay so much for decent seats. Most of us don’t get corporate sponsorship or endorsements. There are NEVER lines for autographs. Not that I think that sort of thing would be enjoyable. I’m just sayin’.
I think that Artists as a group represent a freedom many people wish they had: doing something you love as a career. Most people don’t.. or can’t. It can be a real sore spot and can lead to resentment of those who do. Again I could point to the pro-athlete. Actors and musicians fall into the same category for that matter. Truth is many, if not the vast majority of, Artists I know have “Joe Jobs”. I work as a network engineer/”your company’s IT guy” during the day. I know many who teach to make ends meet. Art as single source of income is a dicey, unstable business. It’s usually feast or famine. The hours are all over the place and you’re at the whim of gallery owners and collectors. All of whom want your work, but many either want a lower price or a bigger commission… or they flat out want you to change your Art to suit their interests or wants. If money is tight you may find yourself more willing to make compromises although I’d recommend against…
Truth be told most Artists don’t ever really choose to make Art. We’re driven to do it. I know several Artists who struggle with their career choice wishing they could’ve been gifted in some other, more lucrative arena. A friend recently lamented, “sometimes I wish the thing I NEED to do is be a lawyer or a doctor or something”. Many give up and become resigned to a life of office politics and cubeville. Some of us, however, are trying to work our way back out.
I’m not saying, “go out and hug an Artist” or anything. I AM saying that Artists serve an important role for the human race. We pry open the soft shell of our collective subconscious and look inside. We tell you things you may not want to hear about yourself. We point our fingers and laugh at things others stake their lives on. We make you laugh, weep with joy, and turn away in disgust. We hold up a mirror to the World and remind it (and you) of what we wanted it to be. Sometimes you hate us for it. Sometimes that realization can make a change for the better.
Until next time…