what we talk about when we talk about artists

I’ve always been bad at games.

The premise of most games eludes me, and, subsequently, I apply my own logic to play. This is, in fact, my state in and response to many situations. School, work, competition, social interactions, most of the time I feel like I’m watching inexplicable things take place around me, so I go off and do my own thing. When ‘my own thing’ works out in those other realms, I’m stupefied. Like. It is so strange to me when what I’ve done off on my own corresponds to something that’s happening ‘out there’.

More often than not, however, ‘my own thing’ remains just that.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a few fairs at Miami Art Week. I left the whole thing yearning for ordinary work by ordinary artists. In every other profession, a practitioner can be good, competent at their vocation. In the visual arts, that is annoyingly not the case. And I don’t so much mean in terms of the quality of work; I’m griping about the Western cultural narrative surrounding artists and our work.

Imagine, if you will, a world with galleries to represent teachers and nurses and ministers and network techs and garbage collectors and librarians and fast food workers and bureaucrats and babysitters. Then, those galleries convene so that potential patrons from around the world can look for the next STARS in those fields. This convention is a weekend of fun for the whole family!

Sure, there are hairstylists to the stars, but there are a multitude more capable hairdressers just down the road. While community-based music (for instance, in houses of worship), dance (traditional or ethnic), and theatre rarely suffer from a star system, every time I tell someone I’m an artist, they look at me expectantly. But the more I make art, the more I want my work to fade into the fabric of my life and the lives of those around me like brushing and flossing twice a day with visits to the dentist every six months. No thrill, just aesthetic and conceptual maintenance with supporting check-ins.

Oh, yeah! This is an idea that excites me!

(See why I’m bad at games? And this is what I mean by ‘my own thing’…)