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.