Immediately after posting, "Dangerous Questions for Artists," the reaction in my email and on social media was fast and furious.
Many of the artists who responded to the essay thought I "hit the nail on the head." Others decided that it was apparently a courageous move to write to me and give their own, personal answers to those questions while a couple of others thought the questions were boring and one artist asked...
"Were you born in a barn?"
The artist actually suggested what's supposedly a more proper and thoughtful way to present those "dangerous" questions to artists.
Being authentic, direct, constructive and respectfully truthful with everyone is so important. I've got hundreds of interviews and literally years of free time spent promoting artists under my belt to prove that I love and respect artists. With that, let me say this ... Enemies smile in your face, charm you with their lies, rob you and flee ... but friends cry with you as they share sometimes harsh truths that you may not want to hear yet need to hear. Friends give without expecting much in return and are in it for the long haul.
But I digress.
I say all of that to make this point. The fact that I got SO much reaction to that essay actually proves my point. When you ask an artist if he/she is a full-time artist along with if they've sold any of their work of late, you're really going straight for the gut ... not THEIR gut, but the gut of the actual problem.
I've spent years trying to cut through the bullcrap often perpetuated by the art world and really the world in general. I'll admit it. I have no patience for it. Bullcrap is a complete waste of our precious time on this earth. The older I get, the more I realize that I have less and less time to beat around the bush. Let's get to the heart of the matter, address the issue and move on.
Here's the real issue...
If people truly respected contemporary art, there would be no need for me to even ask those questions because most artists would actually be working full-time as ARTISTS and their work would indeed be selling like hotcakes. Those questions shouldn't even exist, but the fact that they do is what makes them dangerous.
Contemporary art has a problem. The problem is that society doesn't support artists or creativity. THAT is the point. The questions themselves are not the point. We need to be working on improving the answers. Those answers are about the need for greater awareness about contemporary art.
Honestly, it troubles me that few of those who responded to the "Dangerous Questions for Artists" essay seemed to pick up on that. Hence, the problem. Vicious cycle. Those questions are designed to get us talking about what we can DO to expand the audience for contemporary art. That's actually the MOST dangerous question of all. Why? Because the answer would force us all into some sort of real action. In fact, I could argue that's where all of my questions during all of my interviews are pointing ... What can we DO to expand the audience for contemporary art?
This is why I believe it's SO important for artists to not only paint, draw, sculpt and take pictures. You must also TALK about your work. You must TALK about your process. You must TALK about your fears. You must TALK about your frustrations. You must TALK about your success. You must TALK about what confuses you about the art world and the world at large. You must TALK about art.
Just like the sports world, the art world needs BOLD, color commentators - pun intended - who aren't afraid to ask direct, tough questions in an effort to make the game better. That's why ArtBookGuy is here.
I've found that peoples' biggest fears continue to haunt them because they get stuck in their own heads and they don't TALK them out. They don't address them HEAD ON. They don't open their mouths. They don't tackle the tough questions.
When you make the conscious decision to become an artist or even a writer, you're telling the world that you're going to tackle everything head on. If no one else takes on the dragon, YOU will. It won't be easy and you might get your head and arms bitten off, but guess what? You're NOT going to let fear paralyze you. You've decided that even while you're crying and screaming and vomiting and your entire body is shaking with irrepressible fear, YOU are STILL going into the trenches and you're going to get the job done.
Artists, when you start talking, the dragon looks you in the eyes and says to itself, "Oh shit! This is gonna be tough. I better bring my 'A' game with this one!"
Artists, when you start talking, you put the entire art world on notice by saying you will NOT go quietly and you will not allow art history to put you into some sociological box where you can be talked about as if you're some voiceless, faceless, powerless commodity for posterity.
Artists, when you start talking, you're telling the world that life is short and you no longer have time to beat around the bush and play "nice" with people who are out to exploit you.
Artists, when you start talking, you become part of the digital-mobile platform - like it or not, it's a worldwide reality - and you give yourself and contemporary art a fighting chance of actually being seen amid the world's endless clutter.
Finally artists, when you leave the safety of your studios and start talking, you're telling everyone that you're going on record FIRST about yourself and your work because NO ONE knows your work and your intentions better than you. YOU are the expert.
Curators, art collectors, art museum directors, art administrators, art dealers, gallery owners, art advisors, museum docents, art critics, art handlers, art promoters and art writers all be damned. Artists, YOUR voice is the one that matters most. And no, letting your work speak for itself is NOT good enough. Those days are long over. That's a one-way ticket to obscurity.
We must accept the fact that we're living in a different time. It's a time when things are changing daily. Many virtues like contemporary art remain, but in this crazy world where people seem to be losing their minds chasing the bottom line, art needs strong advocates. Art is hanging onto society's radar by a mere thread. If that.
All questions about art - dangerous or not and for artists or not - center on advocacy. How are we going to slay that dragon and keep contemporary art alive? What are we going to DO? We can chase our tails like dogs by getting stuck on the questions and the way that they're presented, but it's the answers that matter.
THAT, my friend, is why artists should TALK. Peace out!
Are the kids still saying that?