Being an artist is tough because you have to sell yourself. You aren’t selling cars. You aren’t selling microwaves. You aren’t selling computer code or insurance policies or surgical procedures. You’re selling your mind and your thoughts, and if you believe in such things, your heart and soul and energy. You are putting yourself up on a platform and asking for bidders. Attention world: for your consideration, I present my entire thought life in a song, or a book, or a canvas, or a blog. And if nobody cares, or bids, or clicks, or buys– that shit’s fucking embarrassing. Too much of that abuse, and you’re heading straight to the University of Phoenix. And every artist gets abused. Even the best get ignored and abused for a long, long time. So being an artist is tough.
Yet so many people try it. Being an artist is the dream of the young and the regret of the old. Even Hitler wanted to be an artist. Adolph only tried to usher in the Thousand Year Reich after the whole art thing didn’t work out. Because despite the food stamps, the lack of health insurance, and the empty fridge, the artist’s life holds a romance that money just can’t buy. Along with “Athlete,” “Model,” and “Revolutionary,” “Artist” is the only profession where you can be dead broke and still have sex. Study after study has proven this. I’d have money baby, but it’s so bourgeois.
Then, of course, there’s the whole self-expression thing. We all have that inner song, beating ceaselessly in the bosom, demanding liberation from the soul. This is known in more cynical circles as wanting to be famous. And the greatest sort of fame is reserved for artists. (We respect JFK, but he’s no Elvis.) Show us something beautiful. Make us cry. Move us. We’ll love you forever. And if it’s beautiful enough, our grandchildren will love you forever. Especially if you have sex appeal.
And lastly, there is the freedom. If an artist succeeds—if the masses embrace the song of his soul, there is no greater freedom. Nobody tells him what to produce. He listens to the wind, to the wind, of his soul. But God forbid he fails. Because if he fails– if he bares his soul and nobody cares, that’s pretty fucking embarrassing. Especially if that soul baring is accompanied by numerous Facebook status updates. And most artists fail. Unless of course the journey is more important than the destination, in which case everyone wins. So being an artist is tough. Just ask Adolph. He did not handle it well. At all.
On warm, sunny days, Union Square becomes an impromptu artist’s market. Artists set up their stands along the sidewalk and attempt to attract the interest of passing tourists. Much of the art is made to sell. There are common themes: New York, the words “New York,” the Beatles, puppies. A few innovators have attempted cat themes, but these are not recommended. People care less about their cats in tough economies. It’s a sad fact.
I met Robert a few weeks ago. He stood out from the other artists in Union Square. Bypassing the Beatles completely, he has chosen to explore a specialty niche: “The Use of Violence to Maintain Prosperity.” This is bold. Super bold.
Especially when you consider the stats:
Very few people want to hang violent images on their wall. It violates every principle of Feng Shui. But don’t be fooled by the numbers. Even though demand is lagging, Robert has the market cornered. And let’s be honest, nobody is going to make it out of Union Square by catering to the masses.
“I like this stuff, this is smart stuff.”
“So what themes are you exploring here?” There was a long silence.
“Justice,” said Robert. “All of these pictures are about justice.”
Robert was a man of few words. I actually liked this, because his work was very political. And if you listen to any man’s politics for too long, you are going to find reasons to disagree with him. Images are harder to disagree with. People bring their own interpretations to images. So, of course, I was more than happy to tell Robert what his art meant.
“I see power.”
“Definitely,” said Robert, suspecting a possible sale.
“Each of these drawings depicts prosperity, but it also shows the raw power underpinning that prosperity. What makes your art so compelling is that, in reality, these two spheres almost never overlap. Wealth is shielded from the violence that maintains it. But in your art, the two are juxtaposed.”
“Exactly,” said Robert. What a salesman.