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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Fate of Your Art is as Unpredictable as the Weather

Weather is an uncontrollable force of nature. Unless you control absolutely every facet of it, then it remains unpredictable. Anything can happen. 

Your art is the same way. Think about it. You can control some of the factors early on by how you create your work, the message you place within it and the techniques you use to build it. Like weather prediction, the closer you are to the point of origin the easier it is for you to predict. But once its let lose, you have no way to predict it or gauge its impact in any other way except by looking at past factors that influences other pieces of art similar to it.

You can predict your arts course in the first few days, but after that its like predicting a hurricane two years from now. Its impossible. So why do so many artists seek to control their work long after its left their hands? 
Recently there have been some news reports about a car dealership in California who is renovating their property and is about to paint over a large outdoor mural. The mural is 30 years old. But the artist is suing the car dealership and seeking damages because of its removal.

Now there is a law called the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act that may in fact give him credence for his claim. But whether there is or isn't law to back him up is not the point of this article. The point is that unless and artist stipulates right from the start that they own their work and all rights in perpetuity to it, then once the art is gone from the artists hands, ITS GONE.

That may seem harsh. I of all people get heart sick thinking about my work being destroyed. There is more of my soul in my work than I sometimes would like to admit. But that does not mean I don't have common sense where it comes to that work. 

I cannot control my work once it leaves my studio anymore than I can go outside and predict the weather a month from now. If we get so lost in the protection of our art that we lose sight of the purpose of that art, then why are we artists at all? 

I rail often about photographers and artists who plaster huge watermarks over photos of their work to the point where the work is basically lost beneath the tag. This is a derivation of the same exact phobia that we have about releasing our art to the world. 

There has to be a point where we let the future take over and guide that work to its proper place. Suing a company for painting over a 30 year old mural seems extreme. The mural was 98 feet long. There was no way the artist could relocate it. Yes the company should give the artist the rights to go and photograph the work one last time. But then we let the fates take over and we go on to create new work. 

A few months back I read an article about an art expert who when he was young painted a mural of the Beatles on the wall of his bedroom in his parents home. 34 years later his parents are now selling the family home. The mural still exists in the room but its fate was iffy once the house sold. 

That man had a few options. Buy the house himself. Cut the wall out before the house sold. Let the fates decide its destiny. I was never able to find a follow up article to the story, but I suspect he let the fates decide. He seemed pragmatic and understood that art must travel its own course once its created.

In a slightly different twist of fate an artist in Temecula, California placed several large metal sculptures of horses on two hilltops leading into the city. The property owner gave his blessing but unfortunately the property went into bankruptcy years later and the propery reverted to the California Water District. The horses had become local icons to the small town. The artists attempted to buy the land himself but was turned down. The townsfolk are angry. The artist is angry. Now the horses will be moved and not destroyed, but the point is that the artist could not see the future fate of the land in which he placed his sculptures. 

You cannot predict the life or course of events that will flow through or around your art. There is no use trying. This is a lesson we could all stand to learn. 


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