I have been participating in a pilot Artist Boot Camp program for the past several weeks, where artists come together with business people in the community in a unique educational partnership. The purpose is to enhance the business skills of artists so that our burgeoning Canton Arts District can develop solid sustainability. The business people volunteer their time out of an interest in the arts and from a desire to see the arts further develop the economic standing of the city.
In last night’s Boot Camp session, a comment was made by a fellow artist that struck a nerve with me.
“Your work has a real man on the street appeal.”
I don’t think it was intended to be a compliment or a criticism. But the reality is, most artists think “man on the street appeal” is a negative thing. My experience is that most artists and art enthusiasts think that art should have a deeper meaning and higher levels of experiential quality than the average person can comprehend.
If the average “man on the street” can appreciate it, than it must have less value or less purpose in the overall scheme of arts and culture.
Aside from the overt sexist nature of the comment (my collectors tend to be both male and female, perhaps more females than males), I find the whole notion sort of elitist and offensive.
I admire the works of my peers who pursue imagery and intellectual purposes that are beyond the grasp of a novice. But is there not room for both in the great landscape of creative expression?
I have spent 19 years as a professional clinical counselor working in various public mental health settings that serve children. As a result, I have learned much about deeper levels of human experience. I know all about contemporary angst, violent impulses and the vast range of human sexuality–all themes that tend to pervade the work of many artists today. I have worked with survivors of some of the most horribly tragic and traumatic experiences, and I have listened to stories of intense pain and anguish.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Art, and I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling. I have a strong academic background in both art history and creative expression, as well as human psychology.
It’s not like I am an intellectual lightweight.
I choose to create artworks that are accessible and approachable to the average person because of my experiences working with extraordinary every day people. These people have shared their experiences with me–experiences of incredible strength, resilience and recovery, and my artwork is greatly influenced by their resilience. I think it would be somewhat disingenuous to create out of that experience in a way that was not accessible to those who inspired me.
I don’t create artwork for galleries and museums. I believe that the whole system of artist representation in galleries and museums is broken and not advantageous to artists. I create what inspires me. I seek to translate that in a way that both serves my artistic ideals and is attractive to a wide audience. And I find ways to promote it myself to the people who appreciate it.
I am making art that satisfies my artistic curiosity and need for self expression. I am challenged creatively and intellectually in the work that I do. And I am selling a lot of it to people who enjoy it.
I am not making a lot of money, but I am moving towards more profitability.
To me, artwork is about life, and it needs to be a part of the world–living with everyday people in everyday situations. It should not be hanging solely on museum or gallery walls where an exclusive crowd will see it. It needs to be in homes, in businesses, in public spaces where it enhances the landscapes of our lives.
Because, no matter how talented or smart I may be, I am not too brilliant for the rest of the world. I am just another extraordinary every day person.
I am just another woman on the street.
Life is an Adventure!