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Thankfully, Obsessions Can't be Dropped

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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