Friday, March 14, 2008

Art and angst

Lately I've been encountering, in so many different places and from so many different starting points, a consistent thread of quotes, discussions, and ideas on the topics of art, artists, and creativity. "What is an artist? How do you decide if you *are* an artist? How do you find your own style? How do you balance the time to make art and the time to make money (either through a "day job" or through selling your creative output)?" Seems like everyone's struggling with (basically) the same questions. Is it really in the forefront of a lot of people's minds, or is it just that I'm noticing it more because I'm thinking about the same things?

The National Polymer Clay Guild's "Synergy I: Moving Forward/Looking Back" conference, which took place in February, was different from most art-related conferences in that there were no "hands-on" workshops - instead, the sessions were more about the philosophy and practice of making "fine craft", focused on three interrelated tracks: Craftsmanship, Business, and Design, and included panel discussions on "Inspiration/Originality/Infringement" and "Hallmarks of Craftsmanship." Susan Lomuto, blogging about the conference, sparked an amazing conversation about those same questions here, including this beautiful, evocative sentiment from a commenter identified only as "Jessica": "We are all artists, living, searching, creating until we find the medium that is indigenous to our heart."

Hugh MacLeod's "How to Be Creative" challenges some of the more esoteric assumptions we may make about the nature of creativity and breaks things down into a list of very pragmatic suggestions/realities about exercising your own creative spark - things like #11, "Don't try to stand out from the crowd: avoid crowds altogether" and #7, "Keep your day job", AKA "THE SEX & CASH THEORY: The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

Photographer Shirin Neshat seems to have had the same inspiration as MacLeod: "My only advice is to spend less time on thinking about success and put all the energy in making art itself. Otherwise your relationship to your art changes. It becomes less genuine and honest. Art should not be born from a pressure of becoming successful but something deeper. This is always a danger and the cause for mediocrity in art..."

Christine Kane says, among other things, that you have to stop trying to catch your creativity and let it catch you.

So how about you? Are you struggling with these questions? Is it an inevitable part of the artistic process to wrangle with those issues? Have you found your own answers?

1 comment:

Dianne said...

you have brought up the questions that I've struggled with since graduating from college...though for me there was also the "pull" of being a wife & mother...filling the traditional feminine rolls instead of putting my art first...I still feel guilty when I let the dishes & laundry sit & work instead on a drawing or painting, altered book or atc...and finding your own "style!" yikes...it can be intimidating...I try to just do it & have fun...have never really made any money at it...so guess I agree with "keep your day job!"
Dianne