Sunday 18 October 2015

Artists and Rebellion

We're trying but...
photo collage

Ah, artists. Wonderful and strange folks.  I have been one of them for much of my life, but I’ve also dealt with them in my roles as educator and gallery curator.
Artists are wonderful because they (most of the good ones anyway) express truths as they experience and know them, often bravely, often going against the expected grain. They don’t like to be told what to do, they in fact often see themselves as exempt from the dictates of fashion, taste and expectation.They aim for insight, honesty, engagement (the good ones anyway).
Many artists see themselves as revolutionary: they see it as their duty to rebel against strictures, dogmas, and submission requirements. They expect others to meet them and their imagery head-on, with open arms. They aim to have AN EFFECT on those who gaze at their work, much like a bolt of lightning has, or a Grand Canyon has: big, life-changing, important but most of all recognized and appreciated. They expect to be respected.
This attitude is wonderful in their practice, when they are in their studios struggling or collaborating with their media. They then are alone in their universe, masters of their imagery and technique, free from influence and constraint to express, explore, experiment, create and please themselves in the process.
Problem is, many don’t quite get exactly what it means to be ‘revolutionary’. They don’t quite understand the role of ‘the rebel’.  Artists are strange because, for all their creativity and courage, they don’t get it at all when those against whom they rebel don’t appreciate their revolution. They expect respect, but they also crave indulgence  They are surprised, even hurt when their images succeed in provoking, when the reaction of those whose expectations are challenged is dismissive or even hostile rather than celebratory.
Rebellion is by definition provocative; revolution is in effect disturbing and confrontational. It’s counterproductive to expect permission to be rebellious or approval when one is revolutionary.
 When I teach artists or curate their exhibitions I tell them this: I’ve discovered in my life that my art evolves and grows when I strive to be rebellious and revolutionary in my practice, permission and approval be damned.  However, I’ve also learned that my profession stalls if I’m blindly so in my dealings outside my studio. I will get neither recognition nor appreciation if I all I achieve is to sabotage the efforts of those in the business who would otherwise work with me to our mutual benefit.
I hope artists get it.

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