Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Status Deferred that won't be Denied

I was gathering input for my Art World as High School discussion over coffee the other day with an artist friend of mine when she raised a very interesting point.

She pays a great deal of attention to personality types (as do I). She observed that a great many of her artist friends/colleagues are people who had frustrating high school experiences from a status perspective and are now (over)compensating by seeking the approbation the feel they missed back then. Because they’re trying to make up ground, it is not enough for them that their work be simply good, effective, or respected. It (ergo, they) need to be loved by a large audience.

Unfortunately visual art is not a pathway particularly well suited to broad-based approbation. To say so is not a knock against the quality of a given artist’s output or a dismissal of the public as visually ignorant. Those are weak shortcuts.

Rather, it is simply a question of whether someone can relate to a stranger’s intensely personal message. Perhaps the more leaden a work, the smaller the audience. The result is a maddening tension between a hunger for big-time adoration and a life journey that is paved with small “aha” moments, most of which the artist does not even get to hear.

A better path, to my mind, is to find a way—through meditation or whatever—to be happy with oneself. Torment does not make better art; obsessive, hard work does. Life is too short to spend being unhappy, and art is too important to waste by tilting at chimera left over from who sat where in the high school lunchroom.

But that’s just me.

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