What does it take for an artist gain respect and recognition in their homeland?
This is something that has always puzzled me. I lived in a very small community for over 30 years. In this time I observed numerous artists who worked very hard to hone their individual skills, some of them very good and others…well, truth be told, not so good. That’s just my opinion, according to my taste, not the word of God! Many of these people believed that what they were creating was “unimportant”, both in an artistic sense and in the scheme of the development of their country. (Their work was not aesthetically pleasing to the self elected cultural elite.)
Local art was called every name in the book – except good. One tag was “kitsch” This label sticks in my craw the most.If you were fortunate enough to have an art degree…the label could never apply of course. If a “qualified” artist were to copy something “kitsch” line for line, and brush stroke for brush stroke…then it becomes art? Genius even? Why? It always seemed to me that the degree said so!
Whenever there was an exhibition of any “importance” it was run by individuals who could teach the locals about the real aesthetics of art. To show how accommodating and culturally sensitive they were, they would include one or two local artists in the mix.
When we look back at the important and historical pieces of art that historians refer to as spectacular, such as the very earliest cave art for example, we have to wonder who taught these people about art. Perhaps they had a school of fine arts? Maybe they had a stuffy old stone age professor who stood before them wearing designer label animal skins, teaching them the proper way to draw in the caves. I think not! Yet these ancient people produced work such as that found in the Chauvet Caves in France. There are many examples of prehistoric cave art from all over the world, varying in style and content, all now considered invaluable to human history.
What ties our generation to that generation are the works of art that they left behind. I don’t think they were too worried about “making it aesthetically pleasing” for the tribe next door. They were unique! This is how we can tell who came from where. I’m sure the that the “Asian” cave dwellers, couldn’t give two mammoths what the “African” cave dwellers were doing…and as for the “European” cave dwellers, I’m sure they had no idea that entire museums would one day be featuring their works of art as a priceless historical commodity.
So why is it so difficult for locals of any community to show works of art that are of a particular type? Why are they almost compelled to conform with the views of others regarding what is worthy of exhibition? I have visited numerous galleries in world-renowned cities that have thriving artistic cultures, and do you know what I found? I found that the majority of these art galleries and museums host works of art that represent the art of their culture, in its simplest form. I also noticed that galleries who hosted only works by so called international artists, had a “thumb your nose” attitude towards the local artist. It was like pulling teeth for locals to get an art show in those galleries and if they did get noticed they were put on waiting lists so long, that the show would take place ten or so years after they died (maybe by then they could have become important)…. if not longer!
I find it insulting that as an artist it was easier for me to get a solo art show in another country than to secure one in my homeland. It has also been my experience that for other artists to get solo shows at established galleries in their own countries, the jumping through hoops is so crazy that you might as well just resign yourself to the fact that to get ahead, you have to look outside.
Conversely, I found that once you start to get recognized elsewhere, then, and only then, do you get the call. Provided you are blessed and haven’t upset the influential people (those with the inside track on “REAL ART”) in your attempts to make a living at what you do.
Have you ever been into a gallery where they have sniffed disdainfully at your work, only to find that they have the artistic equivalent of crap on the walls! The sort of place where they play background music so awful that it would put an energetic Labrador into a coma! And all because some posh magazine, published by bug-eyed morons who couldn’t put paint to canvas if their lives depended on it, said that this is what art is.
I have read so much nonsense from art critics. What is an art critic? Indeed, what is any critic, literary, film, art….the list is endless. From what I have seen an art critic needs no experience as an artist. Is it simply that higher education makes opinion more valid? What qualifies anyone to judge artistic merit? Is there a special school somewhere handing out diplomas to wannabe critics? It all smacks of elitism and I often wonder how some of the past masters would react if they could hear some of the drivel coming from these self-proclaimed experts.
(Of course this is my view, which can be a dime a dozen, and a nickel a bag…depending on the day you catch me!)
I’ve often wondered why we give credence to these loons. In generations to come who will be remembered? The art critic? I seriously doubt it. So as an artist, I encourage all artists to continue creating your work in spite of the so-called critics and the “In the know” crowd. In the end you will be the one who will live on through your work.
Think about some of the world’s most notorious/infamous/famous artists. I don’t think they were always popular, were they! On the other hand we are still viewing their works and talking about them. Can you name a famous critic from ten or even five years ago? I know I can’t! But we can all name artists going back centuries.
A quick search on Google for “art critics” throws up 67,400,000 results or thereabouts, so we have to concede that they are here to stay, but it doesn’t mean we have to listen to everything they say. I couldn’t be bothered to read through any of the sites listed but if you have the inclination, knock yourself out!
As for what is “REAL ART”, art is whatever we call art individually. It’s work that inspires us, annoys us, gets under our skin one way or another. Art will make us cry, laugh and enjoy today a little more than we did yesterday. It is something that we will remember when we are old and grey, whether as ugly, weird, unusual, multi-coloured and outrageous, art is what connects with us in one way or another, through sight, touch, or any of our other senses.
Our individualism as human beings means that what is pleasing to one may not be pleasing to another, but that neither lessens or increases its value in any way.
Take care artists, as it is easy for all of us to become critics of a sort to our peers, then we become just what we hate so much about those who criticize us. REAL ART is in the eye of the beholder. As for making it in our respective communities I’m going to quote my eleven year old niece Keyanna who now lives in Atlanta, GA. In her modern hip hop lingo she will tell you all “They Just Haters”!