Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So, Who's an Artist Anyway?

The Gates: Tree of Orange
Visual pun - Cristo's The Gates, photographed by Gene Han

Food for thought this morning, from Joe Flood, on the Pink Line Project blog....

In the past, it was easy to tell the artists from the amateurs. Artists appeared in curated exhibits. Professionals selected their work and put them in museums and galleries.

There were gatekeepers in all creative fields. Editors selected what articles appeared in the newspaper. Publishers decided what books would be printed. Art directors chose the photos that appeared in magazines. And museum curators decided what art was and wasn't.
Read the rest of the post

I agree that relying on institutionalized gatekeepers can be a very dangerous barrier to evolution and discovery. But that doesn't make me able to answer the fundamental question of whether gatekeepers SHOULD exist at all.

And - if I was to determine that the art world doesn't need gatekeepers (not a simple decision) - how would I get rid of them? Would that then invalidate all current art institutions, except as historical archives? What about art schools and degree programs - would I want to preserve them? Does this question then become an all or nothing paradigm of gatekeepers vs. anarchy? Is there a reasonable middle ground? Or does looking for a middle ground automatically validate the gatekeepers in a way that makes them primary all over again?

What do you think? I'm good at asking all the questions, but do not have a clear, gut-driven "I know I'm right" answer to any of them. I went to art school for my MFA, and that degree makes me feel valid. But I was in a program that deliberately didn't try to mold us in a particular image - instead the professors' attitude was, "What do you do? Now do it better." I'm also pretty certain that what makes 'good art' is subjective - I've been to plenty of gatekeeper-approved art shows that I've found boring, empty or pointless. I know that official success in this field is due as much to luck and patronage (and more luck) as it is to talent and perceived artistic value.

Maybe my ability to ask the questions, but not answer them, is why I lean towards the world of libraries and information access; I'd rather make everything - all the art, all the perspectives - available, and then let other people decide how to view the world for themselves.

As a side note, this is also Banned Books Week - another example of your right to decide for yourself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

my first thought, based on my own experience, is that an artist is someone who keeps working. Art is more than creativity and a good idea. Mastering the skill and knowing how to use the elements of one's art takes time and commitment.

I don't think I've used the right words - perhaps my first line was enough.