The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Common Ground

Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking
by Bayles & Orland

Image from The Cosmic Nudge

When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art.
When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.
- Oscar Wilde

This quotation introduces Part II of this book and gives us a clue that the authors have turned their attention to the business of doing art. This includes how we interact with the public. In this section titled "Common Ground," we're made aware of the artist's dilemma. If we are true to ourselves in artmaking, then our efforts are unguarded and exploratory. However, the rest of the world may try to squelch that freedom through rejection or even censorship. We walk the razor's edge between the outside known world and our inner world when we ask others to leave the common ground we all share and enter the world of our imagination. Perhaps that's why so many artists compromise their work in order to make it more main-stream and appealing.

And surely one of the more astonishing rewards of artmaking comes when people make time to visit the world you have created. Some, indeed, may even purchase a piece of your world to carry back and adopt as their own. Each new piece of your art enlarges our reality. The world is not yet done. (p. 69)

Here, Bayles and Orland touch on a nerve. Although I love the thrill of selling my work to others, I also feel very self-conscious about it. After all, each of my creations is so personal and intimate. My paintings are extensions of me. Will they be understood? Will they be appreciated? Will they end up in the dumpster? Most artists would advise me not to worry about any of that. Make the sale and forget about it. That's usually what I do, since I have no control over my work once it leaves my hands. However, the moment in which the sale takes place fills me with uncertainty. And then, it's gone .

There are "holes" where paintings used to be. I paint new ones, but they don't fill in the holes, they just take up more space. Of course, I'm speaking metaphorically, but it feels like "holes" in my mental space. The feeling and meaning that went into each individual painting is gone with the painting itself. New feelings and new meanings arise but never replace old ones. If I worked on an assembly line attaching gizmos to something, I wouldn't have these feelings. Art is very different from all other kinds of production. We create a world, we invite others into it, and we hope they'll take a part of our world home with them. An ever-expanding world. I like that.

What are your thoughts?


M said...

I'm struggling with the empty spaces in my creation sequence this morning. I found out yesterday that one of my favourite garden paintings sold. I know I put it in the gallery and yes I would like a sale but some work is more personal and connected than others. Over the years I find some work easy to part with, some I've kept for a year or two and then sold and several I still have. As for painting for the market, I tried, made sales and didn't have much personal satisfaction. Now I feel my work is stronger but I'm not selling as much but I'm more personally fulfilled by it. I like that feeling.

hw (hallie) farber said...

I have trouble parting with pieces--some because I really like them and some because I don't feel they're perfect. It is nice to be paid, though.

Today's NY Times online had an article about Marilyn Minter, an artist I knew nothing about. Her pieces bring lots of money and are painted by assistants (a factory); she gives her clients what they want. She ended the interview by saying this about artists: "We're the elite of the servant class...I know my place." An interesting perspective.

Mark Sheeky said...

It seems like your words and those of Margaret and Hallie are spot on. Nothing to add.

Unknown said...

Hi Margaret - Congratulations on the sale of one of your paintings! That's exciting news. I can appreciate the satisfaction you feel by ignoring marketing and concentrating on your work.

Hi Hallie - an interesting quote! Thank you. I like learning from the perspectives of others, and this is one I'd never heard before.

Hi Mark - Nice to "hear" from you!

M.A. Wakeley said...

I love that quote by Marilyn Minter. She is right.

One of my pet peeves is hearing an artist refer to his or her self as a poor artist. I don't live on easy street. I work hard and things don't always sell. But I trust that I am doing the right thing so I sacrifice some things to be an artist. Artists are the richest most privileged beings on the planet and as such it is our responsibility to share all we've got in whatever way and means we can.

I believe the perceived empty spaces are nothing but illusions. Like wounds that close up and heal, every piece we make and let go heals not only ourselves but those with whom they now reside. The pieces that we become attached to may quite possibly lose their appeal as time goes on. I have one such piece like that right now, and I will hold on to it until the pull to keep it lessens. That is a very rare thing for me though. I like to let things go and enjoy the thought that my paintings are out there in the world doing their thing hopefully bringing joy into someone else's life.

Nice thoughts by all here :-)

Dan Kent said...

Perhaps because I'm not selling or trying to sell anything yet, my reaction to the Bayles & Orland quote was somewhat different. I love sharing my art, and am thrilled when people can relate to what I have done. The words, "Each new piece of your art enlarges our reality. The world is not yet done," seems magical and empowering to me.

I try not to place too much importance on anything I have done. Sometimes I draw and destroy drawings even if I like them. I do not want to grow too attached, because to me the idea is to part with the work, if not physically then mentally. I want to move beyond the last piece I do. If I can move on and someone else can enjoy it, all the better.

Stan Kurth said...

No problem giving it up. I kinda like being scattered around all over the place. The more scattered I become, the closer I am to where I want to be.

Unknown said...

Hi Mary Ann - I agree that the benefits of being an artist far outweigh the challenges. It's a privelege to have the time and resources to engage in artmaking. And, I like your viewpoint about the work you make!

Hi Dan - you have a great attitude!! And, I'm glad that you share your work with all of us and then move on to make more. That's what it's all about.

Hi Stan - a great way to put it! Thanks.