The Laws of Nature

Friday, October 29, 2010

Audience, Part 2

The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)

Chapter 6: Audience, Part 2

Orland ends this chapter by giving the reader a far-reaching perspective of the artist's audience: The fact that museums and art history books are peppered with re-discovered art offers grudging support to the contrarian view that art actually has a better chance of surviving if it’s initially undervalued. Call it the Theory of Benign Neglect: work that doesn’t “fit” gets ignored and forgotten and buried in some dusty attic – in other words, it gets unintentionally preserved simply because no one bothers to throw it away. Then, in different times, an audience with different sensibilities rediscovers the work and sees it in an entirely new light.

So, our art, if it’s preserved, may appeal to people who haven’t yet been born in societies that haven’t yet evolved. Or, it could appeal to our contemporaries but not future generations. Honestly, I can’t get bogged down in worrying about it because I’m not going to change the content of my work in order to appeal to an audience anyway. That’s just chasing rabbits, and it would force me to compromise my vision. For me, it’s a cardinal sin to paint to someone else’s tastes at the expense of my own concept and sensibilities.

But, the notion that my art future may appeal to a future generation is a good reason to use only archival materials. I was advised to do this many years ago and have always spent big bucks on acid-free papers, permanent high-quality hues, etc. Even my studies are treated with this regard, and I advise my students to do the same.

Who is my audience?
Who is your audience?
Who is any artist’s audience? We might never know.

And now - I’m off to Washington D.C. to attend “The Rally to Restore Sanity.” Have a great weekend, everyone!


Linda Roth said...

My blog visitors and followers are my audience. I am my audience. I look at my work months after it's been signed and I either see some tiny flaw that needs a quick fix and do it or don't, or I trash it by sanding and whiting it out, or I'm truly amazed I did that. Since I never know how things are going to turn out, top of the line art materials are a must. I also think it's a good idea to get the stuff out of the house. Have a house art sale--give it as gifts--get rid of it and move on. I have a fantasy about the many stretched canvases and drawings I trashed in my insecure youth. I imagine them decorating the walls of the sanitary workers' homes. the fantasy makes me feel less stupid.

Jean Spitzer said...

Absolutely, about the materials. And I agree about not worrying too much about the works future life: too unpredictable.

Jean Spitzer said...

About trash picking. That actually happened when I threw stuff out in NYC; a couple of my acrylic paintings found a home that way.

Casey Klahn said...

Kandinsky in Essay says that the one guy, and the few others, who are in the "van" are making art that will not be understood by the contemporary audience.

You raise a great point - why worry about that?

Mark Sheeky said...

Nothing to say except be careful at that rally. Don't come back too sane!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, I think it's fun to think about audience every once in awhile and perhaps a little enlightening. I imagine that being discovered through benign neglect doesn't happen that often either. I think you're right, we can be chasing the proverbial rabbit all over the place if we care too much about pleasing someone else.

I just had a thought, how much of what we like is common to many other people? Is what we like hardwired? Wouldn't it be interesting to know what the geneticist think?

With that, have a great time at the rally for sanity! I have great hope!

Joyfulartist said...

I had a teacher who said that we, as artists, are entertainers. What we paint should entertain those who look at our art. That's been quite a lot to live up to. Sometimes I'm the only one who's entertained, I think.
PS One person's sanity is another person's insanity.

Linda Roth said...

Dear Joyful Artist: The instructor who told you artists are entertainers should be locked up. Who would teach students to put the audience's pleasure first? --Perhaps the madame at a brothel? I'm glad you tossed that bit of gibberish aside to become a joyful artist.

Unknown said...

Hi L.W. - I can relate!! Thank you.

Hi Jean - it's great that your work found homes! You never know how others will feel about what we think is "trash."

Hi Casey - thanks for offering more of Kandinsky's sage insights. So true!

Hi Mark - thanks! :-)

Hi Peggy - great questions! I wish I knew someone who could answer them.

Hi Joyful - I've never thought of entertaining people with my art; rather, I want to connect at both the intellectual and emotional level. Maybe that IS entertainment - I don't know. After all, we find entertainment in all forms: tragedy, comedy, horror, etc. I'll have to think about this more. Thank you!

Mark Sheeky said...

Actually I've got an interesting fact for Peggy... that identical twins seem to have everything in common apart from tastes, particularly in romantic partners. Move over genetics.