As the holiday season approaches, I started thinking about artists as grateful gift givers. Artists can be thought of as gracious and giving or snobby and pretentious or maybe a mix of all of these. As my thoughts were coming together, I remembered a funny routine by comedian George Carlin about his views on the game of golf. The bit explained his unique perspective about the game. He joked that golf was a snobby, elitist, pretentious endeavor played for the sake of chasing a tiny ball around for hours on end. Perhaps art can be viewed with similar terms. Maybe being an artist or even collecting artwork can be considered as snobby, pretentious and elitist. If that view is held as true then museums, galleries and even the artists and patrons could be considered stuffy, boring and maybe even loathsome!
True, I think that some aspects of the art world are, perhaps indulgent. There is a lot of talk these days about the over inflation of the stock markets and that talk is also true about the art markets. Sometimes, a lot of emphasis can be placed on the monetary or speculative earnings by collectors, auction houses and art publications. Maybe the artist is even hoping to cash in by making work solely based on current tastes and trends.
However, there are a lot of good things that come from the high end of the art world . One thing I’ve noticed is the tendency to explore outside of the normal marketplace. This brings in art and ideas from all parts of the world and creates a wonderful cultural exchange. This exchange through art generates learning from and about each other. There is no price that can be applied to this kind of diplomacy and sharing.
As I write this, we Americans are about to celebrate our holiday known as Thanksgiving. My hope is that during this time, my little message will bring one of sharing, generosity and gratitude. Graciousness and gratitude are often the motivation behind the work of most artists. Creative people are generally giving people. Creative people often feel like they “own something” that is within them and therefore express that and offer it out to the world. That is the sharing part.
The reciprocation comes from others appreciating the artists work. That may be though shows, articles, interviews, requests for speaking or offering classes. Sometimes, the appreciation is made by a patron purchasing an artwork from the artist. That is when something interesting happens. The artist often feels like there is more to want to give at that point. So, it seems that an interesting cycle begins. Like watering a garden, a society’s artistic culture thrives from this giving and receiving.
A thriving art culture usually indicates a thriving economy. However, the currency and dividends are not always money, status or elitism. Rather, the currency is made up of learning and sharing. The dividends are of ideas and love for something more than just our primary and immediate needs. Out of this, our primary needs are met by some form of payment of goods and services. It is the gratitude and graciousness, expressed though investment in the arts, that creates a cultural prosperity and benefit for everyone. It has, therefore, the ability to enrich our lives and our neighborhoods.
I realize this is a utopian vision and is full of rainbows, but I also think that it is at least a beautiful goal to have in mind. It is what artists work at and what we are often called upon to do when needed, even as the world may be falling apart. Who will paint the mural, design the gardens, make the sculpture, write the plays, movies, and books, create the songs, or make the paintings to adorn the walls? Sometimes, making work feels like it’s going nowhere yet, we do it anyway. If the artist is not just in it for themselves, one will find that the artist will keep working on things for the purpose of sharing and giving of themselves. They may seem fixated on a vision that may never materialize. It probably makes as much sense as chasing a little ball around through trees and grass, for hours on end.