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Thankfully, Obsessions Can't be Dropped

December 18, 2017

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.


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