Public Seems to Like it; Critics and Academics…Not so much…

Creating a work of art is not as simple as it used to be (for me).  A free afternoon, good light through a studio window and an emotionally appropriate playlist on the iPod and away we go into a magic world of “let’s see what happens.”  Enter the academic and the critic and my already tiny and unsteady boat is lapped, lashed…well, I will just state it like it is, gettin’ the shit beat out of it by enormous waves of doubt and dissatisfaction.  I’ve been at university in London pursuing my advanced degree in Fine Art for several months now, hence the radio silence, and I am finding the world of fine art production vastly more multi-faceted than I originally thought.  Not only do I need to please myself (if that’s possible, I’m an artist) but now I have to please academic tutors, my program peers, exhibition curators and art critics (we will save them for another post, blood pressure rises).  In this mix of art minds is born my dilemma… people purchase my work at art markets.  Guests visiting the studio stop, comment and seem to positively receive the works.  Academics and critics wouldn’t wipe their a*@ with it.  It was even recently suggested that I take technical painting courses; like remedial math for artists.  In no way would I ever compare myself to Picasso but I often wonder, he stuck eyes in people’s foreheads, did he have to put up with this?  I have researched several contemporary artists who get flack from critics and academics but are, for the most part, laughing all the way to the bank.  So, here’s the question:  Does it really matter what these art “professionals” think?  They do make their living off the fact that actual artists create art.  When we stop, they stop.  The institution crumbles.  I guess they might ride the coattails of artists past until that ship sinks but something new will have popped up by then like…celebrity mudwrestling for charity.  I would enjoy knowing the breakdown of how much art is actually purchased by academics and critics versus celebrities, people in “shipping”, and the wives of the folks in corporate ivory towers, not to mention everyday people purchasing more affordable art at markets and fairs.  I’m willing to bet the ratio is more than a bit skewed to one side.  There is the debate, however that critics especially are the filter through which art has to pass to reach the consumer.  If critics bash something, do gallery owners want to take a risk on said artist?  I guess what I’m debating is whether this is a symbiotic relationship or could artists just say “peace out” and go about doing what they do.  Do I change because some teachers and critics don’t appreciate what I do?   I am all for evolving; that’s why I am thousands of miles away from my friends and family in a strange city where I get asked daily why my country is so racist and has a fascination with guns.   (I wore cowboy boots one day and gave myself away as an American.  Before I was getting Swedish because I smiled regularly.)  Academics, I understand may feel the need to push an artist and challenge them to create in the best way they know they possibly can but is a push toward originality or to conform to notions of what is contemporary? There exists a formula, a recipe, much like the fancy cakes I see on Pinterest.  There are no substitutions.  If it calls for two eggs, use two eggs or chaos ensues.  Are academics and critics the eggs or the garnish ( if you don’t happen to have sprinkles, it ain’t gonna change the taste of the cake to leave them off)?

WP_20150221_002  The Gatekeepers: Fantasy, Perfection, and Fear  2015

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