WHAT ARTISTS WANT YOU TO KNOW

Artists are interesting because artists are different. Even if you don't know how to talk to the person behind the painting, you want to know why someone decides to do art, and you want to know what kind of art they do. On the other hand, many artists have no flipping clue how to talk to you about who they are or what they do, but we'd like to.


A question that comes up a lot is, "When did you start making art?" Usually it's asked in the same way that you'd ask someone how they got into office management or accounting. Becoming an artist isn't a simple choice between this or that because we don't choose to be artists. Art is something we have to do, and when we're not making art we tend to get depressed or manic. It's like in Chariots of Fire - the guy says God made him fast, that he's a runner, and so that's what he has to do.

Rowan Atkinson from the 2012 Summer Olympics. Image taken from Running is Funny.

Since we are compelled to make art, we really need it to mean something. Seeing your physical body at an art reception or an art opening means everything. It means that we're not just banging our heads against the wall in futility. Art is made for people to see it. When no one comes to the opening, it feels like failure. When people besides our art friends come, it gives us what we need to keep going.


When you do go to an art reception or an art show you'll see the artist's statement. The worst statements on that extra long placard on the gallery wall are full of words like "exploring themes of..." or "the use of materials reflects..." It's a jumble. Few people enjoy reading them, and every artist hates writing them. We're told by every art school, every museum, and every entry form for an exhibition that we need to write an artist's statement, so we do, but the process is grueling.

Image taken from Twisted Sifter.

The reason artists hate writing artist's statements is because they want the art to do the talking. If it was easy for us to communicate our vision through words, we'd be writers. We're not, though, which is why we make pictures. We want you to spend more time looking at our work than you do reading the title cards. It makes me think of a story my professor told me about Man Ray: apparently when Ray finished an artwork he called a friend to tell them to hurry over to come look at it; the friend asked him to describe the piece over the phone, but Ray said that if he could describe it over the telephone, then it wasn't worth looking at. 

Image taken from Soko Is Barefoot.

People tend to assume that because we choose to make art, we do it because we love it, and because we do what we love, it's not real work. First off, I wouldn't say that I love making art. It's more of a compulsion, and I've got a love/hate relationship with it. But secondly, even when I love what I do, it's still a taxing and often exhausting endeavor. Making art is hard and complicated, and it takes years of work to create what we do. 


The gaps between artsy and non-artsy folks doesn't have to be so wide. Although artists communicate visually, letting you in on some things artists want you to know can bridge some of those gaps, making our community more vibrant and satisfying to live in.




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