Oh to live in a world of art without pretension. A world of writers without grandstanding. Le sigh.
There is something of a mystery with artsy folk and writers. There’s a sense of disdain for other people that work in their same trade. It’s sort of like how petty music people will act when the band they like gets big, or when a punk band gets popular. It’s the odd sense of entitlement and attitude that is boggling my poor little mind.
The best example I can give is one that will always drive me crazy and that is photographers. For some reason the ‘I am a Photographer and you just take pictures’ attitude just won’t die. I get that there is a difference, a vast difference, between someone like me, who takes pictures for fun, and someone who makes a living at it. Just as there is a difference between someone who makes a living at it and truly strives to make Art. And at the bottom of this ladder you have the every day person who has a camera on their phone and use different lens and filter settings to take pics of stuff. I get that. What I don’t get is the ridiculous attitude you get from said ‘art’ photogs. Me, I am a writer. I am not famous, I am not rich, but I have been writing for twenty years. I will damn well say I am a writer. But if someone picks up a pencil today and writes a poem or story and it’s the first thing they have ever written am I going to get angsty about them if they call themselves a writer? No. No because the active pursuit of writing makes one a writer. Thus, the active pursuit of taking photos makes one a photographer. You can judge skill and talent and all that, sure, that’s fair, but it’s silly to act as if someone who is an amateur is not legit in their pursuit. You get the same with any art.
There is this crazy pretension about the arts that kills me. I get that we’re all competing in the same way anyone that creates a ‘product’ is competing but that there is such a vast chasm between artists breaks my heart. All of us were just starting out at one point so why the ire?
What’s the drama?
Competition. Pure and simple. The American culture isn’t as interest in Art or the arts as it has been, not in the traditional sense anyway, so there are less dollars spent on art in general. And when less is spent it makes the market way too crowded for the ‘amateurs’. I get that. I do. I can see where it’d be frustrating if you’ve been learning and honing your craft, your skill, your talent, for years, even decades, and yet someone comes along who does something that to you is amateurish and they make money it. I get that. The thing is though that we’re biased. All of us. Maybe that guy that just took a picture with his really nice camera phone just happened to take a really nice picture. Maybe the guy that wrote that poem on a napkin just wrote a really damn good piece. What we miss, we artists, is that some people have that spark in them, that artistic bend, and it’s always there, always, they just never pursued it until later in life. Maybe they had this gift and just never followed it.
There is so much needless greed and angst in the arts and I hate it. Times are hard, for everyone, and if you make your living in the arts it isn’t getting any easier but the heck of it has always been that artists have to work harder and be more driven than other people. Why? Because we generally work alone, we don’t get many accolades, and when we do our jobs right people don’t think about us at all. Art is meant to take you out of the moment, to take you to a different place, even if it is just a place of inner peace. That is why art is so transcendent. When we get petty and bicker, and fight, and fill our lives with pretension and self aggrandizement then we start losing the very reasons we should be doing the art, and that’s to express ourselves. We need to get over judging who is a ‘real’ artist and applaud when someone makes something full of passion that touches us, or someone else.
You know why people don’t connect with art anymore?
Because we took art away from the people.
We made art about ourselves, the artists. We throw ourselves lavish parties to extol how wonderful we are and how magnificent our art is. We put outlandish prices on our art because we have a false sense of entitlement. We charge people to come to openings or shows because we want to nickel and dime them to death. We lost the people when we started telling them they didn’t understand our art, that they were not smart enough to get it. In essence, we lost the public when we told them that we were too good for them. We have only ourselves to blame.
It’s time to make art about the people again.
And you know what, if it takes a guy that picks up a camera phone, or a pencil and napkin, or fingerpaints and a piece of cardboard to bring the people back to art then so be it. I am willing to keep working my butt off to create things I love and believe in and am willing to keep working to make my art relevant to other people. I have an ego just like everyone else but you know what, I can put it aside long enough to see that I am not the only writer, am not the best writer, but that I can still rock some faces when I put my mind to it.