Friday, September 20, 2013

Who's the Artist?

Who is an Artist?  

Who has the right to bear the title?

Apparently we don't have enough to worry about, we creative producers, to keep us from splitting imaginary hairs, ad infinitum, regarding who we are – or who others aren’t.
Who is an artist? A folk artist? A professional artist? A self-taught or outside artist? A true artist? A trained artist? Who is the real artist…

Does it even matter?


If you want a career in academia, or to be taken seriously in certain gallery circles, yes, you need an MFA. All other labels are arbitrary, and constitute little more than promotional strategies. 

The term "Artist" is generic. 

It means you make art. 


Whether you’re a kid with a crayon, or DaVinci himself, an artist is what you are.

Consider the title "Black Belt". You probably think the term means the same thing among the various disciplines of the martial arts. It doesn't. Earning a Black Belt means that you have managed to demonstrate the techniques of one style well enough to satisfy your instructor. That's all. There is no universal governing body that validates the label from one school to the next, or guarantees that the title carries any minimum level of knowledge or ability.

Consider, too, the label "Medical Doctor". In the U.S., this title means that you have studied at least eight years of specific scientific material, four in college, two in medical school classrooms, and two as a hospital clerk, with rigorous, standardized exams at every stage. Licensure requires another year of practice as a resident; board certification means completing a full residency, with written and oral exams at the end, plus continuing education and testing for the duration of your career in "Doctor"- ing. 

Until the title "Artist", or any other creative honorific attains an official definition, along with reliable standards, measures, and oversight, such terms will mean nothing more and nothing less than what we want them to mean.

Whatever you decide to call yourself, 
the proof is in the product.

No doubt we'll continue to concern ourselves endlessly with what others choose to call themselves, rather than getting on with the business of proving who we are by the weight of our own works. 

Regardless of what you decide to call yourself, the proof is in the product. Any Black Belt worthy of the title knows how to conduct him or herself in the face of a confrontation, primarily by avoiding such situations altogether.

For the Artist, all that matters can be found in the portfolio. Until we have literally created something to show for ourselves, we aren't really entitled to any honorific.

Ultimately it is your viewers who will judge your ability, and who will vote with their attention, their comments, and even their dollars.

The only reason you need a title, then, is to communicate to your audience what it is that you do. 

Until somebody comes up with a better one, the title "Artist" seems to work just fine, all by itself.

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