I don't have the answer. Yet, I hope.
Figuring this out is my obsession.
I recently posted to facebook.
"I thought I knew, but I realize I have not touched the fringe of the mystery of what it is to be an artist."
It is weird to have "become an artist" only to realize that I really don't know what that means. I've read a lot of books and articles trying to understand and I come away more befuddled.
It seems most everyone gives up and has a variation of this definition: An Artist is Someone Who Makes Art. While that is true, I am finding that that definition is woefully inadequate. An artist is more than a maker or producer. Lots of people make art and are not considered artists. So what makes an art maker an Artist? Artist with a capital "A".
Why do I care? I have had many jobs and professions. When I did engineering it was what I did, not what I was. It did not define me. When I was a manager, linguist, medical caregiver, apartment manager, janitor, these were what I did. They did not define who I am. Now as an artist I realize that this is who I am, not just what I do. As far back as I can remember I thought of myself as an artist. In my mind that is what defined me. Now I am so bold as to tell people that I am an artist. I even have cards! Knowing what an Artist is is important to me because it is irrevocably linked to who I am. It defines me.
What I am struggling with that make the simple definition inadequate:
Artists are expected to be something different in our culture. Look different. Think different. An artist should stand out.
Artists are expected to contribute and change culture.
Artists are expected to challenge social norms.
Artists are expected to see things that the rest of us do not notice - socially, culturally, visually, emotionally...
Artists are revered and ridiculed. And need to be. For us and them.
What an artist produces is less important than why she produces.
An artist's life and history are important to enjoying their art.
Artists want to cause change.
Artists think deeply.
Artists are different. They are oddballs.
There are a lot of expectation on those we call Artists. The Artists that I love, and somehow embody the Artist, are Rothko, Warhol, Patti Smith, Hendrix and many others. Many famous artists do not embody what I would call an Artist. I would need more courage and arrogance to post their names.
I like being obsessed. It pushes me to think, to learn, to grow.
Maybe I will know what an Artist is when I truly become one.
Until then, I keep searching. Obsessing. Growing.