The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)
By Ted Orland (2006)
Chapter 9: An Ecology of Art
Image: sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy
The title to this chapter confused me at first because my understanding of the word “ecology” is a scientific study of the relationship of living organism to each other and their surroundings. But, as Orland unwrapped his concept throughout the chapter it began to make perfect sense. He writes:
“Now it must count for something that as a species we’ve been able to grasp the significance of such interconnections within the natural world. But where is our understanding or empathy for such connections in the cultural world – or by extension, the art world? As artists today we find ourselves in the same straits as other endangered species, surviving – when we do – at the margins of our ecosystem. Today neither art nor artist is offered a meaningful role in our culture, and while there’s no shortage of political and economic rationalizations for this, it makes no sense whatsoever in an evolutionary sense. Viewed in broad terms, art is an expression of human nature, and human nature is at least partly a product of natural selection. .. The traits we associate with artmaking arise from evolutionary sources – and suppressing those traits carries evolutionary consequences.”
Although I agree with part of this logic, I cannot agree that artists are an endangered species because there’s a universal support for the arts. For instance, musicians and filmmakers have an enormous following and have grown into multi-billion dollar industries. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t listen to music in one form or another or who hasn’t seen at least one movie. Artists have a voice in the political arena and are awarded presidential medals in this country and knighthood in England. Local, state, and federal governments provide financial support in the form of grants to artists every year. Worldwide, the fine arts (painting and sculpture) are housed in expensive and well-attended museums and galleries. Last year I gladly stood in line for over an hour just to pay the $18 admission fee into the Guggenheim Museum. That queue was much longer by the time I left the museum. So, I disagree with Orland that artists are an endangered species. Instead, I propose that the species called “artist” has become overpopulated in its niche. Breeding new artists is easy, but finding support for all them is not. After all, our resources are finite.
This is a somewhat depressing thought, but it also makes me all the more determined to make a place for myself. I’m not the sort of person who responds well to the suggestion that I cannot do something. I like the challenge and if I fail I can at least say that I tried.
What are your thoughts?