Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It's a sad fact that some art galleries depend upon a rich clientele to keep going. It is also a fact that other art galleries charge their artists a membership fee to stay afloat (some in the neighborhood of $10,000), while still others declare a non-profit status and thus depend upon grants to keep their doors open. The questions that this raises are "Where is the public in all of this?" and "Who after all is art made for?" In those moments of wishful thinking does the artist see her work out there in the world for all to see (regardless of bank account)? Does she see art itself as something sacred, both the process and the result; that it can both soothe and outrage, and perhaps shine a light on something that others try to hide? That it can be a mirror for the artist herself, as well as for society at large; a reflection of the present, as well as a hope (or a warning) for the future? With all the artists who have ever lived and all the artwork that has been made, why do some people still feel that irrepressible need to express themselves? Instead of saying that it's all been done before, their actions speak resoundingly that some things still need to be said! The true artists at times cannot help but feel the vastness of Art, the gravity of the continuum of which they themselves are a part. So what does it mean when the platforms for presenting their artistic statements to the world are ignored (or at least not supported) by the very people for whom the artists create, namely, the public? And yes, there are artists who say that they "do it for themselves". But yet there must come a moment when they want to reach beyond their own skin. After all, if the work is universal then there is a longing on some level to present it to the universe! And this brings us back to our opening contention, that the majority of the public fails to give artists its support, which forces the above-mentioned vicious cycle upon the artists and the galleries, and forces us to ask, "If the public ignores our artists then is the art itself meaningless? And how do we respond as artists if those for whom we create are oblivious to our creations?"

And this begs another question as to what actually constitutes meaning. Many (including artists) need a roadmap to find this thing called meaning. And this roadmap consists of accolades, awards, grants, fame, fortune and the like, but upon examination is this really it? When we rely on the extrinsic for our validation, have we not traded in a concrete foundation for a house of cards? When we put our faith in the external as our raison d'etre, do we not mortgage our souls for the arbitrary and capricious; for that which goes on behind the scenes (in oft-times shadowy places)? The million dollar question: Is a work of art only great after it has been recognized by the so-called experts? Or in other words, is its worth dependent upon these outside forces, its intrinsic qualities invisible until pointed out by others?

And this calls to mind the proverbial "tree falling in the forest". Let us imagine a hermit living in the woods, far from the maddening crowd. He keeps to himself and only goes into town once a month for supplies, his life spent in his shack and the woods around it. When he no longer comes to town the storekeeper becomes curious, and after six months he ventures into the woods, to this place hidden from the rest of the world. Inside the shack he finds hundreds of paintings--beautiful, daring, original paintings that have never existed outside these simple walls. And the question then arises, "When is that moment when these works of art will be granted their existence?" To the world outside this may be a great discovery, but what did it mean to the hermit-artist? If something truly is does it need anything else? Or better, can we as human beings be satisfied without that echo from outside? For our mythical hermit-artist in the woods, the tree fell, and it was deafening.