One of my many Crafty Cousins (I’m talking real cousins here, I come from a very crafty family) recently put a blog post up wondering if she could call herself an artist. She likes making stuff (mighty fun stuff, I might add) and yet she was wondering if what she made was original enough to call Art. She asked how other people who make stuff come to call themselves artists or their work art. I like how vulnerable and real her post was. She got me to thinking in one of those raw, sincere ways that you’d share with your best friend, but might hesitate to share with your rough and tumble inner critic.
I was thinking, specifically, about this famous art critic person I heard speak in Chicago when I lived there, let’s refer to her as Ms. Snobby. Ms. Snobby claimed there only a few dozen true artists in the world at any given time in history and right now they were all living and working in New York City – because that is the “salon” of the current times.
I remember the amused, playful thoughts I had during this woman’s lecture. My first thought was, dude, this woman is full of herself! And not only has she discredited her own city and most of her country’s artists, she’s discredited entire other cultures and countries and traditions. What a freaking’ joke! Who died and made her the matriarch (although she sounded patronizing, not matronizing) of ALL ART OF OUR TIMES.
The feelings I had then could be compared with the feelings I have now when I hear a wing-nut politico speak wing-nuttery. I felt kind of aghast but at the same time amused at the sheer ridiculousness.
Anyway, when I left the lecture, I realized most others did not take the lecture the same way I took it. I remember fellow art student friends looking rather bummed out. They were commiserating in frustration, expressing gloom and doom. Like it was impossible to be an artist. Nothing they could do mattered.
|This is my apron.|
My eye-brows knitted. I couldn’t believe what a different take-away I was getting from Ms. Snobby. I felt light-hearted almost. She had somehow in one hour’s time given me complete permission to write off super high-brow snobbery forever. Because, really? Who made her the judge? She could go ahead and have fun with her obviously and impossibly narrow view over in her stuffy academic office while I left her stuffy lecture to check out an interesting drawing show at the coffee house down the street, not giving a hoot whether she thought those drawings were REAL ART or not. She could be the expert dressed in black, while I continued to be the “non-artist” enjoying other “non-artist’s work” all the while with my apron soaked in color.
And I guess that moment was somehow a switching point for me. I knew then that I was an artist, and it didn’t matter what any Ms. Snobby thought. It’s not that rejection doesn’t suck. Believe me (if you don't already know it yourself), rejection sucks. But grand sweeping rejection of entire swaths of artists and their work is flat out ridiculous. And from that day on I knew that no matter what rejection came my way, it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m an artist.
|The floor of my studio the day I wrote this post.|
Artists make art.
It's as simple as that.
And there's no way I'd ever stop making art.
Critics can try to make some kind of exclusive club for what’s art or not art or what’s good art or bad art while the rest of us can go on “loving what the soft animal of our body loves” (to quote Mary Oliver in an out of context sort of way).
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh.
Or, as I suggested to my cousin, if one really can’t handle the baggage that comes along with the word, "Artist," just don’t worry about the label and go on making stuff. Make what you feel like making. If you must give yourself a label, consider the label “CRAFTER,” or, my personal favorite, “CRAFTY LADY.” Because crafters craft. And that even includes doilies. Which is awesome.
Truth be told, even though I do consider myself an artist, I have a shirt that says “CRAFTY LADY,” and I’d rather wear it than one that said artist, any day of the week.
But either way, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m someone who makes stuff and attempts to bring a bit more color and heart into the world by doing so. No matter what any Ms. Snobby calls me.