Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Leg Up

Artists by nature are self-absorbed. They have to be, I suppose, to survive, or at least that's what they think. I've met a few who weren't, but they might be the exceptions that prove the rule. What I have noticed lately, perhaps because of a down economy, is that they are nasty in the process, relentless, really well beyond the usual adversarial competitiveness, belligerent really, and blindly so.

One artist I encountered recently actually referred to themselves in the third person by name, and already advanced in years, was crowing about getting into an art program at a mid-level school. They would be well toward 60 by the time they completed it!

Most people have some inkling that an artist forges their own identity, that academic programs are really about getting a leg up. If you don't have vision, imagination, and courage, you won't get anywhere, and if you have those things, well, you probably don't need school; you need the time and space and drive to do the work.

Sure, if you went to some really prestigious school instead of Dippity-do U, then you can get hand-outs from the buddy system for all its worth. I know one artist like that who likes to act like he isn't just thinking about himself, that he is making it about you, but all the while it always comes back to "all about him" and in an unseemly desperate and shrill sort of way that ends in "what?" We all know that you can't talk to these people, and that as artists we are forced to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "am I like that, am I that bad?"

Getting a leg up in this world seems a reasonable goal given the challenges that life presents, but then you have to ask yourself, who am I getting a leg up on?
My fellow man(and woman!), my brothers and sisters, my partners in this life, and who else? Isn't a leg up just another way of saying stepping on someone else to climb up in this world? Aren't we really talking about climbing? Is that really what this is all about? And if you believe in art, does art come from this place?

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