By KATHERINE GIESSEL
Ideas and experiences are inextricably linked together. According to philosopher David Hume, ideas, imagination and memory come through our senses and our personal experiences from the environment surrounding us. Our personal experience dictates what we produce; it forms our sense of self. Art students have lost sight of this and are imitating experience instead of genuinely living their art solely to be successful in this competitive industry.
Many studio art majors discuss “man vs. nature” in their work, claiming it the focal point of their art. I know it’s not about that. I know it’s about you not investing yourself fully into your art because you obviously took these photographs five minutes before your film was due. So much of what I see within the studio art department are works that are imitations made to save time rather than create authentic works from the inner life of the artist.
There is no genuine self-reflection present in these time-saving works. They are flat and lifeless because they do not show the artist’s experience. They are unsuccessful. These are the students who are majors because they like to “make art.”
Then there are those few saving graces that I would call true artists. They live their art. They are their art. Thus, the works they create speak so loudly it could burst your eardrums. These are the kids who don’t necessarily care if they make it big and will be satisfied on the simple fact knowing the work they create is a meaningful and accurate representation of something from their own experience. Their work has innate power because it contains part of them. It is not a representation of them, it is them and it’s pure.
These students however, are at risk of contracting the Fame Bug, which has taken up residence in this department and art programs across the country. This sickness is evident in both faculty and students. I have been asked on several occasions, “Don’t you just want to be famous?”
I always respond negatively because the instant fame becomes the focus and the goal of an artist the truth of their work is lost. The rise of competitive art galleries and museums in the 20th century has led to the idea that success as an artist is based on fame, on whether or not you exhibit in a gallery.
Television programs like Bravo’s “The Next Great Artist” further propagate this idea. Surely people want to be well received by their peers and have their work accepted: that’s part of the human condition. However, it’s not the end goal. It was never the goal of art.
When you look at the history of art, the very first works were about nature and religion. These forces defined how they conducted their lives and were the focus of these creations. Through creating, ancient people were saying, “I was here, this is what mattered to me and my people. These were our issues. This was our life.” It was genuine creation stemming from their experiences.
Today, I don’t see genuine creation. I see the production of imitated experience and flashy ideas brought on by contraction of the Fame Bug. Unless we reevaluate the idea of success, what it means to be an artist and what defines successful art, the world will be doomed to an eternity of false art products.