Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grace x 2

Eva Lake has a good piece on Grace Hartigan up at her blog as well as a post in honor of unions. I know that a lot of artists think of themselves as above the mundane business of organizing but really, our lives would be a lot better if we had an organization that spoke for our interests and gave us some security to boot. This everybody for himself or herself individualism sounds great in theory but in practice, ends up with one or two big winners (Hirst, Schnabel, Koons) and hundreds of "loosers." It should be (somehow) "all for one and one for all."

http://evalake.blogspot.com

8 comments:

Sheree Rensel said...

Nancy,
I think you are so correct about trying to get artists to unite. However, I don't think this will ever happen. The reason I say this is just from my own experiences. I have seen how artist groups tend to be so fragile. Shoot, even on art message boards there is this "every artist for her/himself” kind of aura. Bunches of artists together reminds me of watching a slew of poker players sitting around a table with sunglasses on, big hats and cards held close to their chests. I don't think there is enough trust between us to gain comfort in working together on much of anything. I guess it is the independent spirit in all of us, but at times it is to our detriment. This is a real shame.

namastenancy said...

It is a shame. I have been in two long running artists critique groups where the leaders were very generous in sharing information about shows and encouraged us to do likewise. So, when I rented my current studio, I was shocked at the high school cliques and the lack of cooperation, never mind sharing information. The one time I was stupid enough to ask for an opinion on one of my pieces, I was frozen by the icy hostility of the reply. This, mind you, from somebody whose work I'd bought and whom I'd given a lot of help and encouragement to. So, I learned the hard way that the path of the artist today is often made more difficult by one's fellow artists.

Sheree Rensel said...

Nancy,
You know this is all related to fear. I think it is in the air nowadays. It isn't just artists. It seems like their is such a cut throat, competitive aura in our society right now. It is all about "Me Me Me". Also, it reminds me of the attitude of the emotionally disturbed students I teach. For example, if I give one student a compliment on their art, it is very common for other students to become enraged. I have to explain to them if I say her/his work is great, it doesn't mean yours is bad! It is OK for someone to do good because you can do well too! There always room for more than one star in the sky.

I think someone needs to explain this to some adults out there too!! LOL

Liz said...

Nancy
I left the business world after a 27-year career to devote myself to working full-time as an artist. In my experience business people in general are far more collaborative that fine artists. However, I haven't found all artists petty. I suspect there are many who are imprisoned by a misguided notion of the lone "artist genius" (a tradition that had its genesis in the Renaissance) or perhaps by low self-esteem that fosters an acute sense of egotism and territory. Maybe they haven't had the opportunity to work in an environment (i.e. business) which fosters cooperation.

Still you would think that all artists, in looking around their worlds would notice that groups accomplish more than individuals. Throughout the history of art making, groups have coalesced around theories and manifestos. This might be just a basic human survival trait—after all, humans have flourished on the planet in a relatively short time in part because of our ability to cooperate. It might be that artists find they enjoy the company of others—working in a group makes working more fun. But ultimately it may just be that the dynamics of the group can push the individual to achieve levels s/he couldn't by him/herself.

Of course group squabbles more often than not derail the group. And yes, every once in a while an individual accomplishes truly great things on his/her own. Nevertheless, I can't help wondering where Klimt would have been without Kokoschka, or de Kooning without Pollock. Or Gilbert without George.

In helping the group, the individual helps him/herself.

Liz Hager

Anonymous said...

One time I shared some information with Charlie Finch, art critic at Artnet, about a very disappointing project, something that could have been so great but had people at their throats. He said to me: "The left eat their young." This is a very short phrase for a complex situation, but I think it applies to many things - including artists.

Eva

namastenancy said...

Because I was in two long running and very supportive artist critique groups before I retired, the back stabbing that I've experienced in my current space - and in the SF art world in general makes me very sad and angry. I've had an fellow artist cop out on me regarding a ride to a gallery across the bay so that I missed getting into a show and another fellow artist who makes slides drop the ball at the 25th hour so that I missed the deadline. There's a level of competition that I just find astonishing; I never thought of myself as a threat but my experience lately has shown me that there are few artists that I can trust to be generous or helpful.
As Eva said - the left eat their young. SF's situation is complicated by snobbery, SF's situation as Disneyland for the trust fund yippies plus a very small art market.

namastenancy said...

I still believe - with Liz - that if you help your fellow, you help yourself and make the world a bit more opening and welcome toward the arts. I refuse to do unto others as they have done unto me and I will continue to be generous with information, time and help even if I sometimes have to go into my bathroom and scream at the mirror with frustration and fury.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I find: it's good to help others and it will come back to you, but necessarily from the ones you helped. Some are just used to taking, they don't know any other way and it doesn't occur to them to do otherwise. And some are natural born givers.

Eva