Do artists need to be crazy, homeless, or drug addicted to get a break?
Who have I left out? The pranksters and exhibitionists, the lewd and lascivious, the braggadocios self promoters, the barely literate, the hustlers and con-artists (no pun intended)?
Freedom of expression is great. Liking what you like is great. I just think there are artists quietly toiling away day by day, hour by hour, in their right minds, paying their dues, who never get the press, popularity, notoriety, and museum and gallery shows that a woman, hanging in the streets, selling her "artwork" if she liked you, and not if she didn't, drawing on the level of a third grader, gets.
Better that you can't read and write or capture a minimum wage job, but have turned your angst into art?
Check out this video!
I was in a conversation the other day with a prominent photographer who told me he was collecting art by UNTRAINED ARTISTS. I have met many people who only want art by illiterate, side-of-the-highway artists.
OKAY. I love some outsider art, too, and of course, to each her own, and of course there is a place for all art (so they say). I like art by some untrained artists and folk art. Most of those practitioners are just like the rest of us who are compelled to make art because we NEED TO PRODUCE visual images. We enjoy the process of making things!
Outsiders, untrained, self-taught artists don't go to school. Although I contend they train in other ways. They learn a different way than going to college, is all. Some people who go to college don't learn much, so college is not necessarily a guarantee of one's success as an artist.
Folk artists are another breed; it is a form of art that is passed from one generation to the next and has a tradition that is not different from other artists who learn from the generations of artists preceding them. I love lots of folk art.
But when I hear about the lunatics who make art because they are just nuts and people tell me they only buy from these folks like Lee Godie, I want to scream!
I don't resent her "success". I just wonder why the story is rarely:
"Artist Makes It Big:
Hard Work and Years of Practice Pays Off"
I am supportive of the arts as an outlet for everyone. Art provides a great opportunity for expressing feelings. Art therapy supports that idea. It is an outlet for me, too. I happened to go the extra step, and studied and earned degrees.
I do resent that others of us who work hard every day to be artists don't get the same kind of breaks in the press, newspapers, TV, in other publications, in profits from our work! People are enamored with Grandma Moses and I certainly understand that. She was prolific and had a compelling story and was extremely popular. I consider the obsessive need to make art an attribute when channeled correctly and, this is certainly an oxymoron, within our control.
But you gotta face the facts; Van Gogh, guys, was a nut job! He saw stuff, alright! He had visions! He cut off his ear, for God's sake! He drove other artists like Gauguin, crazy! He only worked for a good ten years! His letter writing, and a persistent sister-in-law, made his reputation. Building on the crazy aspect about his suicidal self: failed as art dealer, failed as minister and failed as artist during his life time! He failed at everything! But OHHHHHH!!!his art!!! I like it, too, but I resent that you have to be weird and screwed up and quirky, and blind, and half-dead, and a drug addict, and dirt poor to be considered in some cases by some people. Read more about failed artists in America here.
So the question comes up again for me; what is great or even good art? It is art with a great back story? Is it the art that a writer of reputation says is great art? Is it the art that people buy?
Shouldn't it be art that comes from a mind that is lucid? Is it better if it comes from a mind deranged because of heroin addiction? Say no to drugs unless you want to be a famous artist?
I know this is NOT p.c., but when people rush out to buy prison art, handicapped art, blind art, elephant and monkey art, 4-year old art, and on and on...I wonder why the rest of us are doing what we are doing, practicing, struggling, maintaining lives, cooking, cleaning, raising children, going to report card pickup and making art in between all that and a day job, when all we have to be to "make it" in the art world is be crazy! (Not saying animals are crazy; elephants and monkeys are amazing animals and possess high levels of intelligence but are they really artists?)
Photo below: an example of elephant art work. Their helper or Mahout pops a paintbrush up their nose and the rest is down to the elephant!
www.24hourmuseum.org.uk (image below)
Don Henson, Untitled #2,
2006, Turned wood, machined aluminum, black rubber, stainless steel, 24" x 5" x 18"
© Courtesy of the Artist
Don Henson, Seeker,
2006, Turned wood, aluminum, paint
© Courtesy of artist
Before he became an artist he enjoyed drawing.
This guys struggled between being anathlete or an artist and became an artist when his athletic career didn't pan out. He was an artist all his life and had to find his way back to school to study art and he is doing the work to be an artist. He is articulate; he is honest and straightforward, he is modest and I like the work I saw on NPR and Artslant where this image is from. I'd love to try to name all the "normal" artists who work hard every day, who pay their taxes, and should have notice because they are great artists. They should not have to be quirky or weird. They should not have to live in a garret or be obsessed with dead sisters, heroin or piss.
Most artists I know are not asking for fame, just a way to make a living making art. Can't we figure out a way to reward the sane and stable visual chroniclers of our history?