Art for Art’s Sake?

I’m back from a week in British Columbia helping my college freshman son start his new life in a university – looking forward to getting back to some art-making and art-discussing!

I’ve thought a lot about what the process of making art consists of for me. There seems to be a line that is either crossed or not by each artist – the one I’m talking about is showing your work to others with the intention of selling it.

I know of some artists who practice their art and never cross this line. They are happy to paint, photograph, etc. without ever having a show, putting a price tag on the work, sometimes even putting the work in a frame. Each piece is completed and then put away in storage or tossed or ???

In some ways, I envy folks like this – for some reason, I have always felt that the art-making cycle was incomplete with this approach. For me, sharing the work with others, having them experience it, is required for me to feel that the work is done. Of course, I have a lot of art that I’ve shown and never sold – the sale isn’t the piece that completes the puzzle, it’s the showing of it, the sharing with others, that closes the loop. Of course, there are pieces that aren’t of sufficient quality to show but those are not candidates to close that loop anyway.

This does place an extra burden on the process of making art and showing your work to the public can be a very humbling experience. So I am a little jealous of those who don’t feel the slightest need to take that route – somehow they’re dodging a bullet that I can’t seem to dodge. Perhaps there is a pathological need to acceptance behind all this. I won’t deny it…

When I started playing the piano 4-5 years ago, I made a conscious decision at the beginning that I would never play for anyone else. I don’t even let my family hear me (though they probably do hear something from the other room while I’m practicing). But I wanted to keep this activity to myself, for my own selfish enjoyment. It helps that I’m not good enough at it to be tempted to reverse my earlier decision about this! And this has worked for me so far with the piano.

Perhaps this topic has come up now because I am preparing for a large show next month – nothing like that to stir the pot!