It's a murky day here today with a chance of rain/snow, whatever, to come this afternoon. Pretty grey and threatening now and I am finally getting down to some studio time after a bit of lunch and a bit of web surfing while I enjoyed my turkey and swiss on flat bread.
I just finished reading several blog postings by Dustin Van Wechel, an artist whose work I respect greatly. I've bumped into Dustin in the past at an art show or two, but can't say we are friends. But I found reading a particular entry on his blog page, the one for December 6 of last year, quite interesting and close to home. It not only spoke to me but brought a knowing smile to my face.
In that particular posting, Dustin talked about being true to yourself as an artist; painting or sculpting or photographing or drawing or stitching or carving whatever it is that makes you happy and brings gratification, while possibly foregoing what is often a recurrent 'theme' in art circles, painting for the market. I could not agree with that philosophy, more.
And to bring that feeling into even sharper focus in my mind, I find myself continuing to consider, today, time spent yesterday with collector/friends at the Baltimore Museum of Art to see a fine exhibition entitled Cezanne and American Modernism. That exhibition, co-organized by the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey and the BMA, focused on the major influence that Cezanne's work had on any number of American artists painting at the turn of the 19th/20th Century time period. Many of the Americans were artists whose names were quite familiar to me but I was also very pleased to find several names that were relatively unknown to me and have since, done further research on the Internet to find out more on several of the artists whose work really captivated me and spoke to me and involved me and just flat out knocked my thick, woolly socks off!
Of course, as I frequently do, I picked up a copy of the 370 plus page catalog of the exhibition for future reading and digesting. I can take in just so much when standing in the galleries and then have to take the time to really delve into further study.
Anyway, as I read Dustin's words and thought to myself that he had it just right, I could not help but consider what I had seen yesterday at the museum. If there ever was a group of paintings that I felt represented the best of an artist's personal viewpoint and great examples of artists just doing their thing while being true to themselves, there they were in all their glory, hanging on the walls at the BMA.
Now certainly the thrust of the exhibition was the way in which those Americans, working here or abroad in Paris and observing Cezanne's works for the first time, found inspiration in his brushwork, his pared down color palette, his unique for that time period, fresh approach and viewpoint. They adapted what they saw to suit their own personal needs as creative souls themselves.
It was very interesting to see a natural progression as I moved through the exhibition of how each of the selected artist/observers of Cezanne worked through their stylistic approaches, finding their own personal way, while at the same time showing a remarkable kinship with Cezanne, whose works were interspersed throughout, side by side with those of his 'followers'.
OK, back to being oneself as an artist. It struck me as I was leafing through the catalog just now, how the likes of Marsden Hartley, Arshile Gorky, Maurice Prendergast, John Marin, Charles Demuth and all the others, were seemingly uneffected by what might have been perceived as the current tastes and trends of the public and specifically the art buying collectors of their period. Their choice of subject matter, their individual ways of expressing their emotions as artists and their unique take on the world around them, shines through in each and every work represented. And with Father Cezanne standing behind them, after his own stepping away from the norm and what was seen as the typical art of that time period, the impact of the individual and his deeply personal way of putting paint to canvas was further impacted.
I have always contended that an artist must please himself/herself, first. The most creative aspects of their individual personalities must be showcased to the fullest. They have to allow themselves to see in the special ways in which they see and they have to painstakingly and with great courage, translate that sight into their work. They have to look at subjects that appeal to their own base instincts in order to work to their fullest potential as creative beings. They have to find the medium that fits like a glove and not be dictated by the whims of perceived current fashion. They should be free to explore whatever direction they choose to move in without fear of being rejected, looked over or ignored. They should test themselves constantly, push boundaries, try new things, look at new subject matter, all the while without conscious concern for sales.
Yes, I know in these tight financially messed up times, artists have to be concerned about paying the bills. Artists always have been concerned about paying the bills. But that concern should be left out of the personal need to do what brings internal peace.
Many years ago, someone came to me and said they thought my choice of subject matter and the way in which I chose to portray those subjects, was appealing to some extent! To how much of a greater extent might that appeal be, according to that individual, should I choose to use color and be just a bit more selective in narrowing my field of animal subjects to, say, the examples that seemed to currently be 'moving' in galleries, was their query.
I had no immediate response, as I was momentarily struck by the unknowing, uncaring and unfeeling of that individual as to what the creative process and being an artist, was all about.
Over the years that I have been a professional artist, I have seen many others who have, to my way of thinking, foresaken a great deal of their individuality and development of uniqueness, simply to make money. I do not begrudge any of them, their trips to the bank. But as a fellow artist and creative person, I often wonder how they justify placing their names upon works that could be so much better, so much more defined for their oneness, so much richer in the establishment of that name.
As for me, I have to agree totally with Dustin's ultimate realization that, as he has to, I have to produce work that moves me and with hope, in the end, others as well.