Recently, I just completed my first solo art show. This show was the summation of nearly two years of work, with some of the artwork exhibited having been worked on for closer to four years in total. My fear of not having enough artwork to display, led me to create far more work than necessary. I would estimate that about 50-60% of my finished work was not included in this show due to space limitations.
Many, many, lonely hours were spent in the final months before the show, finishing artwork, renting trucks, helping to promote the show, etc. The week before the show, a total of nearly eighty hours was spent finishing up all the last minute things, which inevitably, always need to be done.
Thousands of hours, and thousands of dollars were spent in creating art which most people would view on opening night – a three hour span.
On opening night, like some strange mythical creature, the artist emerges from his labyrinthian mental maze of creativity, to appear briefly, before the gawking stares of art struck fans. Out in the open, the artist as a quasi-mythical creature is demystified, made real in his nakedness – just another two-bit salesmen sloshing around on the sullen floors of commerce. If he’s lucky, he enjoys the act. Out of love for their artwork, the facade of the marketing jester is amiable at best, and cumbersome at worst, like a lard filled costume oozing at its seams. I for one, no longer despise the schmoozing and oozing – the gushing forth of praise for my artwork. Why? Because I truly believe in and am very much infatuated with my own creations. I don’t believe this is true in a narcissistic sense. Simply put, I just truly enjoy looking at my artwork. Sometimes I wish I could be the fan, whom, not knowing what to expect, sees for the first time, one of my towering organic looking pieces. Too bad then for me, that by the time an artwork is placed on the gallery wall, the intimacy with that piece has usually long vanished down the swirling drain of intense labor.
I wonder if most people would prefer the artist to not be there on opening night? If the mere sight of the artist, standing in relation to his work, makes the whole endeavor seem too human, less sacrosanct. Would we feel the same way towards Stonehenge if immortalized next to it, were the straggly weather-bitten creators of this ancient marvel? And da Vinci? Would we think less of the Last Supper if he were pacing to and fro, bent over, unkempt with mangy beard, and mumbling about the esoteric value of art? Not knowing any better, we’d probably surmise the artist to be a bum stopping in for the free food and wine.
But then perhaps there is the opposite view. Maybe most people enjoy stepping, for one small moment, into that enigmatic sphere which briefly engulfs those whom are illuminated by their talents. In tuning our ears to the words of those whom are briefly adored, do we secretly hope to be the first to hear a newly spoken gospel? To be one of the select few who sniff the clean air in front of the herd as opposed to the ass of the sheep in front of us? The artist, like some mental savior whom generation after generation, is made to resurrect our creative Zeitgeist from the ashes of the stale and old, must be made flesh, yet, he must also still maintain within himself, the old myths. Every new messiah, rises through the ranks of stagnant religion, what some would call myth, to obliterate it with new ideas.
Yet, for most artists, their cult status does not come until the adoration of their fans has caused them to become a martyr for the herd – no other proof is necessary for greatness, except a literal or symbolic death. A messiah cannot linger too long of course, without his vison becoming stale, and hence, pointless. I guess that’s why museums are the temples of art. Art, like a reliquary stirs our emotions, but offers little in the way of new ideas.
But let’s be honest. The artist is neither a mythical figure nor a messiah, that is, in the realm of creativity not spirituality. Even when the art is valued, the artist is not, at least not by the majority of people who hate their jobs so much they think it is what all sensible people ought to do. The artist as visionary, as a crafter of new realities, has been transformed into a lesser being, that is, a garish salesman hawking the next “got to have” item in an endless stream of worthless trinkets and feel good gadgets.
All his work, all his creativity can be summed up on opening night, for the flock see him not as a leader amongst the people, whose creative output ought not be measured by dollar signs, but instead measured by bewitched ears – no, no, no! The artist instead is made to list off, as if reading from an owner’s manual, the tired sound bites of his well practiced monologue. His art becomes one piece boring lecture and one piece sales promotion.
To be fair though, what else can the artist do? His labor takes place far from the eyes of the herd. It would be like a messiah explaining after the fact, as he points to a wine carafe and says, that was once water. Once the object of his creation is seen, the magic behind the art has long since vanished. The artist, standing in front of his own creation – is impotent before it. It now rules him, dictates to him, and he, like everyone else, can only observe.
Perhaps then, this is why, after every one of my shows, I experience a kind of deep-seated depression and malaise. All those hours of work, coalesce into a few illuminated hours in which I alone have the spotlight. Yet, it is not I, the artist which is adored, but the objects of my creation. No, the artist is merely there to answer a few questions and dance the necessary jig which merely and narrowly proves that the work in question, was in fact created by human hands and not a machine. Which today, seems like a lessening distinction. The artist is there to market his work, to smile, to say a few words, to, in a sense, prove that he is no one special. That he is stuck in the same reality as us all. And should he forget it, the dollar signs or lack there of, will remind him of his real worth, minus a certain percentage of course. ----Jonah----