Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lest We Forget the Viewer

I know that I've ranted about this topic before, but it is something that I feel very strongly about.

As an artist, I tend to make art first for myself, as a means of expressing my grievances and concerns. Many artists make art for themselves with audience as an afterthought, which is good because it allows for personal expression and self-reflection and the work tends to be more true to itself and to the artist's vision. But some artists seem to think that they do not need to connect with the general public and don't have to care what people think at all. Now that really depends on why the artist is creating his/her work, but if he/she wants to exhibit then this is something that needs to be considered.

A lot of the general population feels alienated by modern and contemporary art and the often austere gallery setting in which a lot of art is shown. Many people feel that there is an underlying elitism which implies that they are not worthy of viewing art because they don't understand it. And several galleries and museums are cold and unwelcoming which only serves to perpetuate that response. But why should artists care?

For one, those same people are apt to complain about their tax monies and other investments going to support art that they do not understand, and if they are vocal enough about it they can and will incite change for the worse, cutting funding to galleries, grants, art education, outreach programs and so on. And as art takes a less important role in education due to the loss of funding and public disinterest, the audience that understands and appreciates much of contemporary art will shrink, furthering this cycle of misunderstanding and disinterest. Whether or not we like it, we need the general public to take some interest in the arts - we need the patrons and grants and so on, not just as individual artists but so that we have someplace where we can show our art as well.

We need to get the general population more involved in the arts somehow. I'm not saying that we should cater to the masses by making art that matches people's sofas, but we need to offer a range of expression in less cold and austere settings so that the casual observer can find something that he/she is drawn to and hopefully take an interest in some of what is going on in the arts. Casual observers can become regular viewers and even patrons over time, once they feel more welcome. They may even jump at the opportunity to learn something new and to see things in different ways. Art shouldn't be easy to understand and it's perfectly good to have some work that is difficult and potentially inaccessible, but there needs to be a balance.


MB Shaw said...

It's a tightrope walk.
Once I read a statistic that less than 10% of the population had ever been *IN* a gallery. And they are fearful even when at outdoor art fairs. I have really tried to make art that is accessible. I think it's important. Nothing pleases me more than a young person buying their 1st piece of original art from me. I feel like perhaps I have started something? One could hope.
And yes, I agree with your thoughts.

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Thank you! This is part of why I create institutional critique work.