So....... Everyone’s an artist? Interesting conjecture.
I prefer the contention that everyone is born creative, since creativity is a necessary component of human basic survival (and has been since the beginning of time). But, as not all are born into an environment which encourages an equal measure of creative élan, some of us inadvertently end up having less capacity to survive the trials and tribulations of life than others. (But note... If we are one of the lucky ones, that does not make us better. It simply makes us more fortunate.)
In consideration of the foregoing, I assume that, as not all of us are mechanically or mathematically privileged, it goes without saying that not all of us are necessarily and naturally "artistically creative" - at least not to a degree which merits the “traditional” title and status of "artist". Though this title once had stature, its contemporary prestige rating has definitely become a faded pastiche of its original self. So why continue to hold it up to such adulation?
Let me man-splain here...
Today, if I draw, paint, sculpt, (i.e.: make things called artworks), this makes me (in fact, if not in aspiration) a drawer, a painter, a sculptor. It makes me what I “do”, not who I suddenly feel the need to call myself. Why? Because the visual arts, as a contemporary libertarian exercise, is for the most part not professional in nature nor should it therefore be in recognition. For all intents and purposes, in contemporary individualistic societies, the quality of self-expression rarely rises above a generic level of avocation - though in capitalistic collectives, the activities may come with benefits. So... why is anointing myself an “artist” still such a contemporary craving?
Well. The irony of it reveals itself when we once again look back to the days of yore. Being an artist, in the past, meant “being seen to have achieved a level of expertise and excellence beyond the norm”. It meant we were better (at what we did), more than (as in: we gave more to our viewer), and worth it (at least re the attention of viewers and especially buyers.)
Why this contention?
In years prior to the 18th and 19th centuries, visual artists were generally known as once-apprenticed craftsmen, journeymen, expert labourers in a specific field. But once their skill sets had been acquired and their individual unique talents discovered as more than average, the status of an individual worker changed. With their work now sought after, they were crowned with the title “artist”.
Today is another matter. That mesmerizing title and its stature of specialness, of difference born of excellent rendering, still lures us in but for different purposes............we wish it not for the same reasons as in the past but for reasons our times dictate. Wearing a title, even one that has faded into an oblivion of non-sense, still gives us a feeling of having achieved in a time when achievement is hardly recognized. Anointing ourselves with it "appears" to make us different and special and “better” in a time when being like everybody else seems depressing... And so, the irony remains.... the last vestiges of status oddly prevail in a field which has long gone rogue and which now demands its due as entitled creatives who have not abandoned the myth that they were born “more than” artistic.
In essence, in the past 2 centuries, the title of artist and its concomitant ally "art", though having lost most if not all of their luster as credible professional designations, have nonetheless oddly maintained a momentum as designates at a time when excellence has faded even more than our artwork production still purports to have the capacity to affect our souls.
In this respect, since excellence in the visual arts is no longer a requisite but rather dependent on how it is defined and redefined, all that is left, it seems, is the title, status and the ease with which we call what we do a profession. This, in turn, makes the visual arts a non-entity in the grand scheme of things professional, (at least where the collective as a whole is concerned).
The following is a related sidebar (as artwork production is concerned) and in relation to calling ourselves professionals....
I would not want to be treated by someone who says they are an endocrinologist but actually isn't.... Basically, endocrinology is a recognized and respected profession. (It is also against the law to say we are of this profession and call ourselves so if our affirmation is fraudulent and worse we actually practice it.) A law practice is much the same, as is engineering and teaching. These titles are acquired, earned. To keep them as ours demands a level of practice in a field which searches out excellence as its goal. The visual arts, as a populist activity, no longer has accredited parameters. Therefore, as a field, it has no more credibility than to simply be seen to be a "generic self-expression exercise". Why is this true?
Basically, today, “artist” has become a glamour title in an arena of "everyone is an artist and everything we do is art".
In conclusion, therefore:
Wearing a title such as artist should be done with respect to its highest calling, In which case, we creatives have to recognize that we are nothing more than observers and recorders of what is, (in whatever style we prefer to render the message). We are neither god nor guru. And ours is not to preach but to share - even if our only task is to carry the message of the a caged canary in a mine shaft...
if we are honest, this end description must be acknowledged as the mandate of the arts we purport to be attaching ourselves to. Otherwise, like the too often undue wearing of the title artist, and the strutting of the status we invoke, our work would be best referred to as art therapy, its focus: creating for ourselves and its quest: making us feel better...
Bernard Poulin. . .