Is art making a calling? Can we know a person from the artworks they make? Do we make art in order to be seen?
These questions, were recently posted online all in one grouping. Quite interesting and multi-faceted; speaking to a lot of areas - each in need of clarification. But before taking them all in, please allow me to, once again, spell out my position:
Art vs artworks
I do not create “art”. I make artworks. Art, in and of itself, is an enigma, not a creatable thing. Artworks, on the other hand are manufactured, made, created products or commodities. I therefore make things called artworks from which (maybe, sometimes) the enigma of "art" may emerge.
For me or for others...
In my books, there are 2 ways to "create artworks”:
1) the first is therapeutically - i.e.: to make artworks which meet a creator’s own needs and desires. Being a restorative exercise, it is generally called therapeutic artwork making or, in it’s most common misnomer parlance, art therapy.
2) The other creative élan has a more universal visual language connotation. - one which speaks to creativity as a channel, a connection with others. In this context, artwork is a statement made, a conversation, a “something” to "put out there". That’s what we “usually” define art as. And if the product of our mind and heart, (an artwork) is “made” to be exhibited, to be seen - or to, at times, be put up for sale in a gallery or auction, etc., the necessary connection with others is a given.
That being said, when connection is a sought after conclusion to our creative efforts, its goal must be to surpass or at least be said to surpass the basics of physicality (i.e.: the artwork's physical presence, its status as a thing, an object, an artwork). Why? Essentially, for an artwork to rise above its mundane physical appearance, it must be of such a nature that the mystical existence of its soul - the art within it, (if it is there at all), will wish to emerge - to make itself "felt", to be sensually available to a viewer open to receiving it. That is the stuff of artwork creating at its most powerful... It has a message (within it) to share. In essence, the visual language that is artwork making has but one “collective” purpose: to speak (if it can) to reach out and touch and move each and every individual open to the “art” within a wondrously created artwork.
It's not about "me"...
As for my own paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc. It is not about me. I have never felt the need to own, hold dear or hold back my creations for my sole appreciation. Their purpose is to reach out, to connect with others who, in turn, may appreciate, reject or simply observe what has been presented to them. I would hope viewers of my work feel more of a connection with the people, places and things I paint than with me. Focusing on a creator is to redirect one’s attention to a narrator rather than to the more important story being told within an artwork. Why bother creating, if the goal is to be celebrated? We might as well simply stand nude on a pedestal and await the adulation being sought.
Will you know me?
For all intents and purposes, defining someone’s character, personality or traits by associating them with their artwork is a rather tenuous amateur contention akin to pop psychology. Analyzing the psyche or personality of a creator, in our times, is more a judgment call based on populist opinions and beliefs than facts or reality. And, as titillating as our pseudo-psychological meanderings might be, the eventual findings may say more about the person “wondering about” than the person being wondered about.
The passion, the calling...
Lastly, re “the call” to create, versus a choosing to do so.
Once again, we live in a time of everything meeting our wants rather than our needs. We tend to romanticize certain words (such as “calling”). With words being played with today rather than naturally evolving, it does give rise to the consideration that such a thing as a "calling" is a cut above the basic human trait of “wanting to”. In essence, a calling, in our times, has come to mean an almost spiritual or religious fervour regarding one thing or another. It implies that those of us "who are called" are somewhat more special than the average lot of "normal mortals".
Now, if all we mean by this is that "we have a strong urge and ability in a specific area of expertise", then I would consider the word legitimate. More insinuation than that, though, as to its origins or intent and I would begin to feel that a twinge of pomposity, which could easily be associated with other descriptives such as superiority and self-aggrandizement, was at play. .
Luck of the draw...
The only thing which is different in those of us interested in any form of artwork making is that we have not yet had our curiosities and urges to make things taken away from us by a world which fears difference and wonder. In that we should simply consider ourselves lucky not better than. Basically, at best, a calling means “having a purpose” and at worst “having a holy above the fray passion”.... which, in past eras was often referred to as displaying an exuberance.... akin to an erotic seizure...... Maybe we should be careful with what we wish for.
To summarize. I would wager that most of us LOVE what we do and wish to continue doing it for as long as our capacities allow. (That is certainly praiseworthy since such an attitude will surely keep us younger, longer...) But calling our high spirited interest a “calling”, in this iffy era of artwork making, is... to be honest, “a bit” of a stretch.
Me, myself and I...
Being seen is "a thing' these days. We crave it through our selfies despite the fact we seem to know that it is a sign of anxiety and depression to have to constantly convince ourselves we exist. But artwork making is hugely different than that which we do with our phones. The idea is to at least know the ballpark definition of a professional... i.e.: It's someone who knows enough to take 2 steps back when presenting his or her wares to those who are interested in their "product". It's simply being mature enough to "shut up" - to allow a completed artwork to have its own say (if it can) because that is what artworks do... when well rendered... they allow the art from within to emerge and speak.
Bernard Poulin. . .