I am constantly telling people to take a break. I’m a big time advocate for vacations, taking a break (mental or physical), switching it up, doing something different, breaking away from the mundane/everyday, letting go.
I think that we are stuck in a society that is constantly telling us to go, go, go but then turns around and wonders why so many people are dealing with mental health issues, burnout, physical health issues, addictions. Many creatives bring that shame/guilt into their own professions, and it’s almost like we feel this need to prove that our art is just as valid as any ‘job’ so we go into overdrive.
I see it constantly. Creatives feeling the need to justify their career path, or something that everyone else considers ‘easy and fun,’ by being everything to everyone. Even people who choose to have a creative hobby get sucked in to the mentality that they need to sell their work so that it’s justified. They need to explain to people that they have a side hustle, rather than a hobby that makes them happy.
What it boils down to is the chatter. The chatter online, the chatter from society, the chatter in our heads from previous generations convincing us that creativity is a luxury. Even as a seller, I see it happening when someone is super interested in a piece of artwork but it feels like too much of an indulgence. I’ve been reading a lot of artist blogs lately and I’m wondering how the conversation can be changed about art and how to show people the necessity of art in our lives.
Art obviously has a long history of belonging to people of higher status. After all, it was commissioned by kings and queens and Popes long before any of us had access to it. It was the ‘common’ people who could make the art, but the rich and powerful who actually wanted these pieces. Now that everything has become more accessible via the internet, I still see artists degrading the public by making statements about how they don’t understand art or worse, using wording/explanations that are far too complex and academic for any of us to even decipher what they’re saying.
And if I’m honest, I feel like these over-explanations are just a way to, once again, justify why they’re making art. It feels like artists, after being shamed into thinking that their art *isn’t* about joy/passion/beauty, have instead gone the opposite direction and tried to make it inaccessible and go over people’s heads. Which is more of a reaction than the purpose of making art.
Art is cultural and should reflect the times, or reflect a feeling/the interests of the times, but I’m not seeing that anymore. I see a lot of artists, gallery owners, curators going beyond what the general public could ever understand and they’re totally missing the point.
Art is a desire. Art is a feeling. It’s something that everyone wants to feel, or see, or do, or be. It’s a reflection on what is happening in the world, and yet there’s such a distance between art and the people. It’s like art has become less about what others, or the masses, feel but rather a lifelong dissertation about why an artist chose that career path. It’s like we’re constantly, endlessly, defending ourselves.
Don’t even get me started on the artist who insists on being super private and elusive. The whole point of art is for it to be shared. And yet I see these artists who are obsessed with not sharing and with having their ‘style’ taken away from them. I know it hurts when other people take your ideas, but when did art become only about you and less about an artistic movement?
I think we have become so consumed with our egos and outward appearance that it becomes impossible to separate the work from the artist. What was once a collective art movement where everyone had their own take on a style, material, etc, is now this super obsession with the self.
I know it has a lot to do with social media. Here we’re given the opportunity to create a mini-website about ourselves and instead of social media becoming a place where people share ideas, they want to be the first and only person to have that idea.
We’ve become possessive. And that possessive behavior oozes into other spheres of our lives. We were the first to have that idea at work, we were the first to wear that shoe, we were the first to try that restaurant, etc. As a small business owner and creative, the lines get even blurrier. What becomes personal, what informs the work, what do we keep private, what was ours to begin with, what can we share?
No idea is an island. It’s been taken from a bunch of other ideas to get to the point to where you are. I myself have struggled with calling myself an artist because so much of my work is inspired by many other ideas that came way before me. I’m interested in the dialogue between the past, present, and future. I’m interested in the fact that my work can sit between many worlds and many time periods. I love this notion that learning from the past can help inform the future while some of my methods of making are markers of the present.
To come back to breaks, take one. Remove social media from your phone, remove that news app, stop answering emails, stop answering text messages if they aren't urgent. Do this for a few days/weeks/months, and dig deeper into what your creative voice is telling you to do. Don't make art to justify yourself, make it because it brings you joy or because an idea came to you. Spend time quietly making it without the influence of social media, the news, society. What to do about that chatter in your head? Then talk back to it and ask it some questions. And then when someone asks you why you made that thing, tell them it was because I told you that you needed a break.