Last post I talked about my take on the million dollar art market and all of its many faceted complicated layers, so if you missed my post last time go check it out here. But today I will be focusing on the 2nd question posted to me:
What do I think about the expectation put on artist’s to be Mona Lisa famous in order to be successful?
In short, I think it is a shame. But I also do not think it is true either. I think the bigger issue is how media, literature, and old school professors romanticize the idea of the “artist” as the solitary figure, working like a mad man on their work, inspired by a flash of light. Being an artist in real life is NOT romantic, it is not easy, and I do not think any artist ever got shot with a flash of light-like inspiration.
I think in general there is this “idea” that an artist chooses his or her art over life and that they essentially live, breathe, eat their art, that they are naturally blessed with their talent and success like magic, and they do not care if they make money, eat food, or have a nice apt.- and to me that is bull. I actually have a friend who was quite talented whom gave up on his path as a writer because he could not fulfill the romantic idea of the writer. Though in truth he could write very well.
I feel that this over romanticized idea of the artist perpetuates the “Mona Lisa” famous myth. In other words it encourages this idea that you are nothing as an artist unless you are a bonified celebrity with your art. I find this entire idea completely ridiculous as many of the most well-known artists of the past were never truly recognized for their art until they were dead, but yet they kept painting or sculpting or creating and kept getting by even thought during their lifetime they were never famous.
The celebrity artist truly began with Andy Warhol and has rolled like a snowball getting bigger and bigger. But to me it simply does not matter. In the end the artist get’s to decide what “success” is not any one else. To me the best art is made by artists whom are motivated by their passion and their intention rather than if they are in a “successful” gallery or not, or how much their work is selling for. They make art because they are artists.
To me the pressure in academia and media to become the next “big thing” perpetuates the over blown art prices and the shoddy work that is selling for those prices. Academia simply wants a “big” name they can spout out to alumni and prospective students, galleries want to drive prices up for their own pocket books (though only very few galleries make much money) and the artist’s have the choice to buy into it and only feel successful when they model for a Fashion Designer or have a show at the Guggenheim. But to me this is the artist’s fault for believing the myth.
The reality is that the true success of an artist is they keep making, they keep sharing, they keep telling their story, and hopefully they keep their integrity too. Yes, we all want to make a good living off our art, and sure I would love to be represented by a blue chip gallery and never have to worry about how I am going to pay for my studio again. But to me this is a sign of financial success and there are many other forms of success that are more important to me. Showing up to my work everyday is success.
There are thousands of artists in this country that most of us have never heard of that support themselves with their work, they are successful regardless of the fact that no one has written about them in Variety or maybe they have never even been to New York.
To me success is a sticky word. And I prefer to stay unstuck. My life philosophy is imagine what you want to wake up and do everyday. If you do that thing, even if for just an hour, than you are living a successful life. Even if you do not have the money to buy a Gucci bag.
So I say screw the myth and just make your art.
Until next time keep your needle threaded!
Joetta Maue is a full time artist primarily using photography and fibers. Her most recent work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the art and craft blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch. Joetta lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, baby son, two cats, a goldfish.