Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Old Masters and Young Geniuses

First and foremost, the idea that continued to come up for me during the discussion at the July 7 Bootstrap Art Subgroup meeting with David Galenson, was the notion that experimental and conceptual artists alike should not try to be anything other than what they are.

While this idea is comforting and liberating, as an experimental artist at the beginning of my career, it is also somewhat disconcerting. On one hand, I found it comforting to feel like I fit into some kind of framework. It was as if I was somehow finally granted the "permission" to work the way that I work. As an experimentalist, that kind of validation is no small thing. On the other hand however, I was also faced with a sense of impending doom with the idea that these insecurities that I harbor about my self as an artist are also an intrinsic part of being an experimentalist. David suggested that on average, most experimentalists tend to live a life of discontentment. As I stand here in the beginning stages of my career looking to the future, I can't help but feel a bit like Sisyphus rolling his rock up the mountain day after day only to watch it roll back down again.

Camus' message seems to be similar to Galenson's message to experimental artists, which is to embrace the way that you work and don't try to compete with conceptual artists. However, the problem that I run into with this notion is that of how to continue forward knowing that if I follow this way of thinking, that my "rock" will likely continue to roll back down the mountain perhaps indefinitely.

I think that while the theories presented in Old Masers and Young Geniuses are indeed worthy of consideration and undoubtedly thought provoking; they lack an investigation of lesser-known artists who are currently making their living as artists. That is to say that I think that the scope of Galenson's research may have been too narrow to provide a measuring stick for artists working today. I completely understand why he chose to focus on the artists mentioned in the book. It stands to reason that in order to collect quantitative data he would have to limit his focus to well known documented artists. I think that the theories that he presented are quite insightful and serve as an important jumping off point for anyone interested in understanding the creative process. However, I also think that these ideas should be interpreted with consideration of the limited scope of the research.

I suppose that in the end, I make art because I am compelled to do so regardless of monetary gain. While my intention is to generate an income with my work, I think the important thing to remember for now is to do the best I can with what I know. This book has added one more piece to the puzzle in that it has helped me define my goals just a little more. So, I will continue to push my "rock" up the mountain with the intention that one day it will stay at the top and perhaps even reach another peak that I cannot yet see.

Dara Chambers is a member of the Bootstrap Art Subgroup.

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