Why Artists Become Artists?
As I read the above indicated posting, I noted the photos used to “attract” the eye to the article. The presence of Picasso, Leonardo, Van Gogh and Rembrandt certainly gives an air of gravitas to the question at hand. Staring at the row of “greats”, I wondered, in the dark recesses of my mind, whether the contemporary need to call ourselves “artists” is simply nothing more than a ploy for recognition by association.
I’ve always thought that an artist is someone who creates “art” - art as an above and beyond intangible which surpasses by much the basic physicality of the paint, canvas, marble, etc. used to render "artworks". Throughout the centuries, art has proven itself to be a mysterious wonder which has always transcended its 2 or 3 dimensional “supports”. As such, art is not so much the physical artwork we see but rather a presence rising from the depths of someone’s unique ability to sense the powers, wonders and even horrors of it all and, through them, communicate those sentiments to the world at large. Art is that part of it which reaches out beyond the physical plane - touching, moving, awing and speaking to its viewers - surpassing anything that even the best in the basics of craft or technical skill can conjure within the artwork itself.
Though there are millions if not billions of artworks created in the world every day, very few have such powers. But when they do, we recognize them as special, noteworthy, valuable. Though numerous enough worldwide, these exceptional pieces nonetheless remain rare in the grand scheme of things and, in the end, merit a global status which is higher than the norm. And to their creators we equally assign a status of “greaterness”. We call them artists. . . and to the greatest, we assign the title Master. Thus my wondering at the idea of “recognition by association” and these follow-up questions : Are we all artists because we simply wish it so? Do most of us just not accept the titles associated with what we “do” - i.e. : paint, sculpt, compose, write, dance - as good enough? I think of welders not wanting to be associated with the idea and action of welding or teachers not wanting people to know that what they “do” is teach.
Ironically, we live in a world which both eschews royalty and its accompanying titles and appropriations and yet hates being associated with “labour”. And so it assigns itself status which no longer has qualifications attached to it except through “association” with those whose entitlements to that position once demanded qualifications. . . . Just thinking. . .
I am a painter and writer who's whole life has been influenced by one precept : "thinking each our own thoughts makes us relevant and relevance makes us powerful."