The Devaluation of Art
OK so this is long-but give it a chance:) Then tell me what you think! Agree or Not.
I read an article on etsy today responding to another article discussing the decline of the arts. There has been a decline in both the number of artistic jobs as well as a decline in the amount of money that those still pursuing these jobs earn. One of the points discussed was the value ascribed to artists’ time. It stated that there is a prevailing view of artistic endeavors as “play.” This view has relegated art to the realm of children and retirees who do not have anything truly important to be doing. As such the act in and of itself is the reward and thus why should the consumer have to pay for this time? They then asked what do you think is causing the devaluation of art in our society? As I ruminated on this subject I came to the conclusion that I think it is a combination of an arrogant art world that has disconnected itself from the rest of society and the subsequent doubt that has filtered down to the many artists who are not a part of this artistic elite, but who have the most contact with every day patrons of the arts.
I do agree with the article that artists get paid very little for their time, or at least this artist does. However the statement also made me wonder if art becoming devalued in our society is all a matter of the general public becoming these cheap uncultured Philistines or has art started to disconnect itself from people? Do not get me wrong, I do think art is becoming undervalued in our society. But as I said I do think that “Art” is not blameless in this whole escapade. I have a different artistic style than much of what I would label main stream avant-garde art. While that term may sound contradictory I think it is applicable to much of the art seen in “modern art magazines.” Many of these images are grotesque, distorted, and frankly to my sensibilities ugly and uninteresting. They have such an aire of arrogance that they seem to boast that you the viewer just are not cool enough to “get them.” Or that the viewer has had such a pampered upbringing they just can not relate to the struggles portrayed. As a result many times I shut the magazines in disgust, muttering to myself “it’s just sooo haarrd” in a whinny over dramatic voice as I do. This might make me sound like an older person who just “doesn’t get what these kids are doing now days!” But I am 25, so numerically I am not that out of the loop. How is Art suppose to connect with, better, and provide insight and illumination to society when a young-ish artist is so put off by much of it?
I am not blameless in this conversation either. As an artist that frequently does art shows I talk with a lot of people about my art. This gives me a great opportunity to share what actually goes into art, creativity and the act of creation. I create what I term at art shows as “happy art.” My art is whimsical, fun and sometimes a little silly. I tell people who come in my booth that I “have fun with it.” Which is true. I am also one of those shy people who have a hard time talking themselves up. I am much more comfortable with self-deprecating humor and shrugging off my efforts. But that kind of attitude does not help further an appreciation for what I do. I do not think I am alone in this kind of short coming either. Many artist have a hard time being their own promoters. We need to explain what goes into our work, why it is worth it and price it accordingly. We have to sound confident in our work when talking to potential clients or they will never be confident in buying anything. So WE need to be confident in our work.
I think this is where the self-doubt creeps in. As I said, I am a whimsical artist. Contrary to what seems to be “real art” in magazines and galleries, I like humor, I like cute, I like happy. But I have to remember that even though my art does not look tortured I do have depth of meaning to my work, it is just done without being critical and pessimistic. I do have an agenda, I am making people look at the world in a different way and I am doing it one silly hippo with a bubble pipe at a time. But my paintings are not just silly creations. They are art and should be treated as such. I am the only one selling them, so I am the only one who can convey their true worth. If artists want other people to value their art we have to value it ourselves. But we can not turn our noses up at all of society and expect them to do anything other than sneer back.