Saturday, March 21, 2015

Art and Commerce

I had a story that I was telling myself about making art. It was told to me by someone who influenced my life at an early age. The story goes like this. To be an artist you must not do anything else to earn a living. You can only make art and that is it, nothing else, you will suffer because no one really understands an artist's life but you will be superior because you have made this ultimate sacrifice in the name of art.

I understood that I needed to make a living and I chose graphic design and that is what I have been doing since I set foot on the pavement outside my college. Internally I made the distinction between art and design. Design was a living, art was uncertain. I chose a life with some certainty of an income and for many years I supported myself and my artist husband while he suffered along making art but very little money. We both suffered and I think art suffered too.

What I now understand about art is that it's a practice, and in the 29 years since I graduated from my college with a degree in Fine Art, I have been practicing my craft and my craft is art. I feel a sense of relief at this revelation. There was no time wasted—as I had thought—not making art because I was making art, and I was living a life that I had solely created for myself. In the 29 years since graduation I have been  honing my visual acuity and my discipline toward art making and art theory.

Lately I am working on projects that seem to blur the lines, or bridge the gap between art and design. I am supporting myself and my child by working hard at what I know and love and I am challenging myself all the while enjoying the life I have created for us.

I will always work. I think working in collaboration with others is what really makes us whole. I am sorry for those who lock themselves up in their suffering and superiority in the name of art. Art doesn't ask that of you. Ultimately being self supporting is the most freeing of all things. To be an independent person, a free thinker, unencumbered seems a good goal to me and the right thing to do to really begin to explore creativity.

There is a subtext here about the person who told me this story. We have to pay in this life. We either work and pay our own way and carve out time for what we love, or we find a way to integrate work and art, or we siphon our living off the backs of others, our spouses, parents, the government. Whatever you choose you have to eat and keep the lights on and someone has to pay those bills. Someone has to get up everyday and have a plan for how you are going to eat and I think it's reasonable that everyone who is eating is contributing something in some way, artist or not.

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