Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why So Important to be RECOGNIZED?

I spent the morning watching an hour long online interview of my artist/son Jason with Bobby Chiu called, "Chiustream" about Jason's success, thoughts on living the artist's life, growing up, working at his work. Very good...
Jason Seiler Interview by Bobby Chiu

Congratulating him on a well done interview, I then have a few thoughts of my own on the present state of things, thinking I'll share some of what I believe are becoming disturbing trends for our times, our culture...for present and future generations. Understand these thoughts are my own...

Thoughts that have developed over time teaching art in the public schools, teaching adult painter's workshops, writing and producing my own art instructions, books, moderating art online forums and fielding questions from artists...offering helps and so forth...having been a long time observer as much as anything else. I would like to believe I am wrong...but more and more I see evidences convincing me that I am not.

I give my son credit, and I know how hard he works, how dedicated he is...but I also know that what drives him is not the need for attention, and for an artist to be truly successful in my opinion s/he must aim and elevate him/herself above such.

IMO...you would do well to know that the obsessive need for attention is an inclination, a learned enculturated model of the times, but in fairness...and having often in jest said that opinions are a lot like armpits, "everyone has at least two and most stink"...I am human, and could well be said my opinion here on this stinks. I am fine with that, and perhaps it is fair to say I've aged enough where that fear we all dread may be coming true. That is...I may well be turning more and more into dad!

So, here are my thoughts...about the state of things today...that we are witnessing more and more the obsession or need folks have to set their sights on the goal of attaining "recognition."

Watching the Tiger Woods story develop...seeing more women now coming out to say they too had affairs with this superstar athlete! How crazy is this, that people want their fifteen minutes of attention and fame so bad that they demonstrate little shame related to having had an affair? To what it is the public will then know thereafter? It would seem, that attention is attention...whether it is good and reputable, or shameful. So poor in character I fear...people becoming, and so desperate.

Some want to do well today at art only to the extent they'll get some attention. A love for attention and this skewed idea of some twisted elevation or status in life such will bring, rather than a love for discovering what with hard work and sacrifice they are potentially capable of proving...becoming!

Personally, I'm sickening of it...and I question more and more my own work as an artist. Its one thing to promote oneself I suppose to earn the opportunity in a competitive market...but just don't want the sickness developing in society to affect me.

I was reading this morning...out of a book called, "America's Secular Challenge- The Rise of a New National Religion" by Herbert London

In it...London was talking about this obsession with people today for getting "attention"...to where folks have blurred the line that separates infamy with fame, being infamous versus famous. At one point the author says, "Madonna's marketing in the form of public nudity, blasphemy, depicting herself in degrading sexual acts and the rest of her unique brand of immorality. She is, as they say in the business, recognizable, and that means easy to sell. Marketing undergirds the manufacture of celebrity, and getting people to notice you is all that counts, so handlers push the envelope of attention, forcing the culture to new extremes. Recently a young man who committed a savage murder said, unrepentantly, "Well, at least now I'll be noticed." Alas, he was correct."

He talks about Paris Hilton celebrity reaching status after well-publicized sexual piccadilloes, Lindsay Lohan for alcoholic binges and temper tantrums...and so forth.

Talking about infamy and fame he says, ..."had the distinct meanings some time ago. Infamy designated a reputation derived from evil, brutal, and criminal actis; and fame stemmed from doing something positive and valuable."

Talks about how Tupack Shakur, Paris Hilton are infamous, not famous...and that it is in the interest of the National Enquirer and Star to confuse these words...but such tears at the fabric of society. I like that he then ends the thought that "fame" and "infamy" must be disentangled. (where you and I come in) When people derive celebrity from acts of genuine charity, concern for others, and behaviour that should be emulated, we should call them famous--and only then."

So...my ever increasing belief is a growing weight of responsibility upon those of us that understand the importance of such, being ourselves artists...and instructors...people of faith (perhaps), we who recognize the tendency of this and future generations interested in wanting recognition first and foremost. That natural inclination and tendency to be lazy and lacking ambition. If it doesn't come easily and expediently, seeing such as a sign that which is not meant to be. Wow...consider what would have become of Michael Jordan then when cut his sophomore year in high school in basketball for not having been good enough. What if he had believed that!

The lack in character and fortitude to work hard...willing to forego that which leads one down the path of excellence if attention can otherwise and quickly be gained. Unfortunately, the general public has been duped and groomed, enculturated as it were...to be impressed with those that gain attention as well...losing what I believe was the old sense of former generations calling the mediocre to a higher standard. It would seem thus, that attention justifies whatever attempts that secures it, mediocre...shameful, whatever...and the public is all to quick and willing to give status to any having gained recognition.

An artist can be a lousy crappy artist...but because such and such a magazine puts out an article on them, or they win at an exhibition, then it justifies their mediocre efforts. Sadly, it also makes really good artists appear bitter and poor sports for poo pooing such poor abilities having attained unearned honors.

I've participated in a number of events where some out of touch artsy fartsy judges, or professors from colleges are called upon to determine winners. Perhaps themselves not even experienced in the same genre or medium, giving out honors to immature painters mixing dirty paint, poor compositions, and thereby lowering the standards as the non-winners but eager hopefuls look on and naively come to a determination that THAT'S how good they need to try and paint and imitate for their chance at recognition!

But...sadly it would seem, earning "recognition" is what people are putting their energies to...in which case ANY way or form of getting such recognition becomes its own justification. Such is a poor standard, a horrible goal, and I myself am lamb blasting and attacking that idea more and more. You need to come to believe that what is ultimately in you has to be vastly more of an interest to you yourself than what others will recognize. Come to expect more from yourself not happy to accept kudos for what your own conscience knows has yet to realize its potential. You can smile...say "thank you"...but know as you return the kind gesture you must press on.

Its a strange line we walk...because attention has always been an important requirement for the kind of success that assures the making of a living. An understanding for which I myself have struggled with the past 20 years because attention has led to some bad experiences, getting ripped off over $250,000 the first couple decades of working...which hurt my family directly or indirectly. Now...I find myself suspecting those wanting to give me attention, to what end...and how they might benefit? Who will potentially be hurt should I lose myself to the trappings of attention? Also...will those that recognize my work do so for the good they can genuinely see in the work...or because they are easily led by the winds of attention I may be enjoying, thus somewhat envying/hoping some of the same for themselves?

My hope is that artists would discover the joy of a work taken to its potential, that does not ride on the back of attention it receives or not. Its been said it takes a lifetime to earn a reputation and two minutes to ruin it, but I also say that one can lose themselves, their vision...one can be enslaved by the perpetual motion success and reputation promise. It is one thing to possess the gift, quite another should the gift possess the artist.

Those that seek recognition for recognition's sake will discover hollow empty expectations awaiting them. Disillusionment will be the cup they sup.

Happiest you will be to recognize life itself is a gift, and that the making of one's art in its highest potential form becomes a sacrificial viable means to worship, to celebrate life. It is a giving back...adding gifts to the world, blessing in return...and in that you the artist experience a sort of being paid in full even before considerations of an awaiting potential market.

You have participated in the Creator's toybox...played without pretense, and found Him honored and pleased!

You look in the mirror...and do not see someone on the other side of those eyes staring back that is hiding. You are not found wanting...

12 comments:

Just said...

Larry, in the last five years I have collected subscriptions to nearly 300 blogs, most of them written by artists. I admit I skim more than I read, stopping only to absorb the most interesting posts. In my blog reader there's a neat little permanent clippings file that saves individual blog posts forever so they can be reread and savored. I never used it until today, on your post. Thanks for saying everything you said. I hope there are many who will listen.

Eugene Veszely said...

Amen!

I can only see it getting worse, such is man's sin nature.

Marsha Hamby Savage said...

Thanks Larry. I always enjoy reading your thoughts. It is a fine line drawn between receiving recognition so you can continue to produce art, and the line you speak of -- recognition just for recognition's sake!

Larry said...

I appreciate the feedback...especially on such a long rant. One wonders if any would make the bother...sort of a deep calling onto deep. I think the times warrant serious reflection...

thanks all...

Larry

Justin Holdren said...

So right on Larry! It is getting worse too. I think recognition as an artist is OK to a point, but that shouldn't be your driving force. Obviously you have to market yourself, but there are many that receive national press that aren't that skilled. My goal is just to improve daily as a painter. If I could reach 1/10th of the skills that I see in painters that I admire, I would be thrilled! I know of one local artist who is far more talented and skilled than most nationally known names, but he makes a living from his art and has a quiet commission business, and always has commissions. He is earning his living as an artist and does market, but isn't seeking fame or glory. He just wants to paint. That sounds like a good life to me, rather having the stress of being nationally wathced and people expecting a masterpiece from you every time.

C. k. Agathocleous said...

This is so perceptive, Larry~! It helps me pull together some thoughts I have been having lately on my teenagers motivations and school work too. Your character and insight seem steady over these past 15 years that I have known you via the net. Thanks for this blog entry~!

Mick Carney said...

As always, a lot of careful thought goes into what you produce when the need to 'rant' overtakes you. You correctly draw attention to the proliferation of the apparent societal need to garner attention. This is a very complex subject, not least because the craving for attention that is exhibited by humans from birth has to be sated and moderated as we develop. However, we now live in a world that has made it far more difficult for humans in their early years to experience the nurturing and attention that they crave. The speed of modern life, the demands on time that may once have been devoted to parenting and not that loathsome concept 'quality time' that has supplanted the more concentrated investment in children that earlier generations were able to give. There is no easy answer to this as modern life also demands the generation of sufficient income to live a tolerable existence and for many balancing the various elements of their lives is an almost impossible task. Our affluence in the developed world comes at a cost, one that strikes at the heart of child development, time and attention. It may be that this attention deficit in early years is partially responsible for the phenomenon that you describe.

Loretta said...

Keep om painting and commenting Larry, I need some sanity in this tumble of a world anymore. Your painting of the paint tube has given me just what the doctor ordered: direction!

Looking forward......

Candy Barr said...

Bravo for you rant Larry. Good thoughts around extreme motivation for recognition to achieve a brand. Hopefully the truth will set us all free!~ and that we can judge what is the truth when we hear it or see it!

Nothing like seeing good paintings to motivate our souls. Carry on!

Tim Jones said...

Well said.
Narcissism seems to be the greed of this decade. It also astounds me at times the lack of shame. Maybe I'm just too shy to understand.

btw I enjoyed listening to your son. You have every right to be proud.

Larry said...

Just want to say how much I appreciate everyone pipin' in here. It is good to peel away and wrestle with the whys and the deeper meanings behind making our art in a world ever increasingly wanting to toss what is meaningfully meaningful aside.

You all greatly encourage me...
peace

C. k. Agathocleous said...

I keep coming back to read this again.