The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)
Chapter 3: Art & Society, Part 1
Folks, I hope you had the opportunity to read the responses to yesterday’s post. They’re gems. Personally, I agree with Don’s eloquently stated viewpoint and hope you’ll read it along with all the other substantive comments. Today, we’ll move on to Chapter 3.
Orland segued into this chapter by previously suggesting that society dictates which is art and which isn’t. Perhaps this doesn’t resonate with artists since we have our own mindset about it. However, if you’ve ever tried selling your work or submitting it to a museum, you already know that society’s opinion matters.
In the best of worlds, artmaking would be encouraged, its destination would be clear, and society would cultivate the relationship between artist and audience. Oh, how I long for that perfect world! The author sees three looming problems for us artists:
Art plays no clear role in our culture.
Artists have little direct contact with their audience.
Artmaking is indulged, but rarely rewarded.
Yup, those are BIG problems. He writes becoming an artist means creating your own path and in all likelihood going it alone. It means relying almost entirely on yourself in a world that’s more or less indifferent to all that you do. Art may be recognized as a noble profession, but it rarely gets mistaken for a useful occupation. Orland has his fingers on the artist’s pulse. I can relate.
Before we all get depresssed, I should mention that there is a good side to all this. Going it alone gives us the best opportunity to listen to our own inner voice so we may express it through our art. This is what gives our work authenticity. So, the isolation is often necessary for meaningful expression and innovation.
But, Orland isn’t concerned with that here. He offers us perspective by writing about the condition of the generations of artists that have gone before us. Often, they were more connected to their families and communities, and their art was more integrated into religious and social institutions. The difference, as Orland sees it, is that earlier artists spoke for the community and recent artists speak to the community in their works. That is an important difference.
But, I see another big difference. Our predecessors were fewer in number and selected by society. Without that support, they couldn’t have existed. Today, we can support ourselves financially by other means while simultaneously engaging in artmaking. And, we have more opportunities to show the rest of the world our work with fewer restrictions on the content. We’ve come a long way, baby!
And then, there’s the paradigm shift from classical art to contemporary art that declares the subject of art IS art. The author asks: How deeply can art matter if the only fitting description of its meaning and purpose is “art for art’s sake”? Thus, Orland calls upon the art community to find a higher calling for our work – spiritually, educationally, and technically. Maybe that’s how you open the door to creating art that matters in a culture that otherwise displays little interest in the issues of substance. Can this be true?
More on this chapter next time.
And now, what are your thoughts?