If Acceptance is Your Goal…It’s Time to Reevaluate

I’ve been hanging around artists for a long time.  I go to art galleries, museums, and artists’ studios.  I belong to an art guild, buy art magazines, and subscribe to a number of artist sites on social media.  I’m drawn in by the artist’s narrative.  I would love to spend time in art studios just observing the process.  I get to do that when I watch the series Art 21, but in person would be better.

Listening to artists who are caught up in notoriety leads many to make things that are “pretty”.  They are visually appealing and if that’s how you define success, then you’re successful.  The problem for many creative beings is that they became artists because there was a calling.  There was a moment in time when there was a knock on the door and they decided to answer.

I’m always intrigued by installation art because it’s a huge mystery to me.  It took me a long time to realize that installation artists depend on commissions to make a living.  Installation artists embody a quality that many other artists don’t experience, freedom!  There is a freedom to tell a story.  They aren’t concerned about whether or not the work will fit in someone’s dining room.  The Mattress Factory, an art museum in Pittsburgh is devoted to installation art.  They provide the artist with space to create, and a place to live while working on the installation.  They are given the freedom to create with a sense of purpose, honesty, and authenticity.

We live in a world full of judgments.  Feeling judged is a way of herding creative beings to a place of safety.  Some artists create in a place of safety because the world can be harsh and they haven’t developed a tough skin to brave what comes at them.  Acceptance is a tricky thing because it makes us prey to the valuation placed on us by others.  I understand that if someone is going to make a living creating art the work has to be marketable, but if it’s not about the artist’s truth is it worth the sacrifice?


Michelangelo, Crouching Boy

If freedom is the goal then the artist can create from the soul.  They can tell stories that need to be told.  As artists, we’re social commentators.  We have a platform the expose cultural inequities, historical mishaps, and question authority.  We can create work that challenges cultural norms and provides a haven for people to explore their inner worlds.

Striving for acceptance and sacrificing freedom eventually is a stifling force.  It will in time stifle creativity.  Open yourself up to freedom and see what rises to the surface.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Installations and Impermanence

I often travel the country for work. When I take on a contract I’m in a new city between four and six months. I work diligently to explore my new temporary city and that includes as many of the art venues as possible.

My last contract was in Indiana, PA, north of Pittsburgh. I made every effort to make my days off count and that meant exploring the museums Pittsburgh has to offer. Since the days of the diminishing steel industry, Pittsburgh reinvented itself as an arts town. Along with the many prestigious universities, it has fabulous art museums that spark the imagination.

One of the amazing venues was The Mattress Factory (www.mattressfactory.org). It’s a museum dedicated to installation art. It’s multiple buildings and each one is more impressive than the last. The museum has housing for the artists who live onsite while creating their masterpieces.

I don’t always understand installation art, but one of the interesting things that intrigued me was the ability to become part of the art. When you walk into the art you become part of the art. When you leave the art piece, it changes, and so do you.

Artist Jonathan Latiano strives to get people to be hyper-aware of the space around them. When you’re aware of your surroundings you can weave your way through the space impacting it with each turn. One of Latiano’s premises is that installation art epitomizes impermanence. That’s because it’s created in the space where it’s shown and when the show is over the installation is dismantled. Even if it is recreated it’s impossible for it to be identical to its last reincarnation.

I recently wrote a piece on impermanence titled What Buddhist monks and children have in common (you can find it at www.pilgrimpathway.com).   Installation art is about invention and reinvention. Artists don’t create installation art with the intention of someone buying it for their living room. They create it as an ultimate form of self-expression.

In a world filled with challenges, the ability to reinvent ourselves is a gift. Installation art personifies our ever-changing souls. It’s a mirror for our personal and universal transformations. The impermanent nature of the art is a blessing because it shows us the path to emergence!

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