Sunday, September 15, 2013
A MODEST MANIFESTO
By: Kurt von Behrmann
A piece of writing can take on a life of its own. I started out writing an introduction to a brief essay on art in Phoenix and it turned into a discourse on ranting. The whole process of writing is about journeys, but sometimes the side roads are just as intriguing as the destination.
Talking about art in Phoenix it seems inevitable that a rant will follow. There have been more than one rant I have had about making fine art in the desert. Sometimes it fell on deaf ears. Other times the pointed remarks made their point.
What started my whole process of ranting and art in Phoenix started with my latest commissioned project. Overcoming the trouble and difficulties of creating fine art, I had successfully pulled off the most difficult type of art, the commission. It just so happened all the stars lined up properly. The client understood my work, the space was great for art and I was given a lot of creative latitude. What made the whole project work was that my work was understood and my direction appreciated.
Against some well-meaning advice to “tone down” my work or making something more “accessible,” I stood true to what I do, and I believe do best, create contemporary art. When I started creating art I made a promise to do what I do and not be swayed from my direction. Commercial art is an anathema to me.
If a commissioned means “trashing” my integrity as an artist, it is not the right commission for me. I am selective about the commissions I accept. I have chosen to be so by choice. I supposed I could sell more if I “pandered” to “common tastes” but I cannot do that. My role is to elevate and expand art, not to hamper its growth. Artists are supposed to set standards, not following blindly existing trends. In order for art to be trend free, it has to be breaking new ground, not wallowing in existing puddles.
My past patrons accept a standard. The patrons I have do not want me to pander and would be insulted if I created “lesser” works. Not just for me, but for my patrons, artistic integrity is not an option. It is a mandate.
If one is going to create fine art, one has to be serious and taken seriously. I was very fortunate in that I had a small, but understanding, set of patrons who truly understand art. They know what I do, what I will not. My adherence to my own standards have been the key to my artistic advancement. The work does not grow if you become caught up in the game of “playing to a crowd.”
If there is a rule in show businesses, and it is true in Fine Art, is that honesty is what an audience ultimately wants. Clean, dirty, messy or neat, if there is a truth to the art it will work. Such art will find an audience. Lie in art and it fails to sell to anyone. You may get lucky with a “gimmick” but for long term durability, honest in art is the only way.
The other rule of show business that is true of singers as it is for artists is that you have to be distinctive. When a singer opens his or her mouth and you know instantly who it is, that is the key to being an artist: people recognize your style. If you want to succeed critically or commercially you have to be different. Style is part of being different. How style evolves is intriguing. It comes from a combination of discipline, inspiration, hard work and truth. Style is not something that is grafted from an exterior source. Style comes from within.
Being distinctive, being creative, being an artist is about demands. The demands of the profession, the demands of reaching higher and higher levels of achievement, the demands you place on yourself, art is about demands. Demands are just a part of the process.
One can be an artist and be purely a careerist, but I don’t think you are an authentic artist. When you create purely to sell, there is fakeness to the whole thing. The work shows its roots. The regrowth shows through. It doesn’t take long to see that the work is simply phony.
What started as a rant turned into a manifesto.
Sometimes the journey is about the back roads.