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Friday, November 4, 2016

The Art of Fear - The Nightmares Artists Face

I had a dream. I saw an abandoned house sitting alone in a field. The doors were open to the elements and the floor boards were cracked with gaping holes that were open to the dirt floor beneath. There were construction people with hardhats surveying the property. A large yellow tractor sat waiting outside. Several men walked through the house room by room until they came to the attic. At first view it was also empty, but one of the men noticed a small door to one side and opened it with some effort.

Within was a cache of old art, dust covered, yellowed with age. Some had sustained water damage, others had holes eaten through by insects. The men looked them over carefully finally finding a faded signature still readable at the bottom of one old painting. The men looked at each other, shrugged. "Never heard of him" and tossed the signed piece onto a pile of rubble, making their way back out of the building. One man gave a hand signal and the great tractor roared to life and began the methodical destruction of the old home. The last thing I saw before waking was that poor old painting laying in the midst of the attic floor as the ceiling began to crash down around it and in a pool of sunlight arching in from one of the holes above I could read my own signature upon the painting just before the roof collapsed.

And in this dream lay my biggest nightmare. That everything I've created will someday be left abandoned in some lonely attic never to be seen again. 

I think perhaps I am not the only artist to have this fear. My guess is, that lying just beneath the surface of every artists mind, this fear lurks, even if we may not wish to admit it.

This fear has nothing to do with making money. Nor is it a wish for popularity. It is simply a fear of spending my life in the pursuit of something that will never be shared with others. 

Art is meant to be seen. It serves no purpose otherwise. It has no more reality than my fevered dreams do if others do not bring it to life by seeing it, enjoying it, even criticizing it.

The whole emphasis of the art world now is on making money. Money is fine. I have no problem with artists profiting from their hard work. But I suggest that this is also one of the reasons that fantastic artists never get noticed. They aren't a sound investment. It has nothing to do with the value of their work, but the value of how much profit they can bring to an investor who buys into that artist.

Many are left behind. No one wants to take a risk on an unnamed artist because they fear losing money on that artist.

But how else is an artist to establish their reputation if the art world refuses to take a chance on them? The whole paradigm must be changed.

We must create because we it brings us joy, but also because others believe in us as an artist, not just a money maker. 

So this artist and many others fear their work will never get seen because some gallery owner or store manager considers them a bad investment. This is neither right nor a wise use of the intellectual capitol that the worlds artists represent.

Is there a solution? In part I think its in changing our own perceptions. When we stop making our whole focus about profiting from our art, the art world changes with it. This does not mean not making wise investments in your own work. 

I think if we can attach value to our work that does not necessarily include a price tag that we start to think about different ways to use our art. For instance, rather than trying to convince a gallery owner to make an investment in you because your work is financially viable. Perhaps you start using the art itself as the commodity and you create a piece to give to that gallery owner instead. This allows them to see your work first hand. You have attached a value to the piece you gave them. If you called an Art Agent and said "get me into this gallery" it would cost you money. So the work you just provided has a value equal to what that Agent might have done for you. 

Ultimately it still comes back to a price tag. But if we change our perceptions to value rather than dollar signs what does that do for our own exposure. The goal is to start thinking of every piece in your inventory as being valuable and being just as good as a dollar in your pocket. Now go out and spend that capitol in a way that gets your work out there in the mainstream

Artists will continue to have fears of their work being lost in some closet until the system changes or they by chance get noticed. I suppose its part of the risk we take by placing our creativity as our main focus in the world. We put our whole souls out there in our work and we take the chance of that soul being trampled on. But we keep on creating. Its who we are.

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