Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On the needs of visual artists

I was catching up on my art blogs today and came across an entry on Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof's Artblog that caught my eye. The post is from sculptor, Charles Hankin and is titled "On The Needs of Visual Artists". Just scroll down the page a bit to see it. The following is my reply:

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I agree with a lot of what sculptor Charles Hankin wrote in his entry. Particularly the part about artists advocating on behalf of themselves and the arts:"We need to teach our friends, family and neighbors about art and why we are important creators. Respect for art will come from personal relationships not from an Arts Council or other government agency.

I couldn't agree more. It begins with how we view ourselves, what we do and how we present it to the outside world. I think a lot of visual artists tend to downplay what it is they actively do with most of their time. Most of us have day jobs to make ends meet, myself included. However, when someone asks me, "What do you do?", in reference to occupation, I always respond with "I'm a painter". Period. Inevitably, the question of how I support myself and my work comes up and I'll tell them that I have a job, but my main occupation is that of a painter. To me, this simple declaration puts me in a better position to be taken seriously. Not only that, I tend to take myself more seriously as a creative person.

I think a lot of us shy away from making distinct declarations because of a misguided idea that it's somehow not good to speak highly of what we do as creative people. Perhaps that is because the fine arts have some to be so devalued in our society that, for some, it's almost a stigma to mention they are an artist of some type. Maybe there are flashbacks to a childhood where parents and others made it known that pursuing the fine arts wasn't an 'appropriate', i.e. 'lucrative' or of a high enough status. That's nothing new, as it's been going on for centuries, but this attitude still defines how many of us approach our relation to the world outside of art.

Another important aspect is to speak about art and what we do in a way that viewers/participants can make connections with thier experiences in the world. That's key. If you can talk to someone who perhaps has no background in art history and get them to see connections with what you are doing with your work and the world around them, then half the battle is won, I think. This is particularly important when it comes to abstract painting, video, or installation work.

People do want to know who we are and what we do, but we have to be willing to give a little more, sometimes. We must seriously believe that what we are doing is vital to everyone, bring that messege to people in ways that inspire them, and most importantly, continue to challenge ourselves as artists, keep making the work and put it out in the world for others to experience.
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