So often I come across the idea that the artist is not the person. That the one who produces the work is not the same being as the one who lives day-to-day.
Inner life is mysterious. Of course it is. So it’s no wonder our work doesn’t always “click” with our everyday personalities. But it seems down right wrong to say the two - the maker and the person - are separate beings. Actually it seems immoral. Does an artist get a moral “pass” simply because they are making stories, paintings, or songs and not cars, computers, and tables?
An artist is more obligated than the average person to dig-deep. The reader/viewer/listener expects to find spiritual depth in art. It’s become unfashionable to say, but beauty speaks in a language the postmodern person misses. Maybe it’s gone further. We may even have adapted to beauty’s absence. Art that disgraces beauty is now de rigueur. Anish Kapoor's art installation at Versaille is a good illustration of the situation.
Beauty has been a huge part of my own life. The sound of Bach in air at summer music camps. The mysterious expressions of 17th century portrait subjects seemingly looking into my eyes. A lemon tree fruiting. An orchid flowering. These textures make-up the background of my childhood memories.
In my 20s I worked in the contemporary art world in London mainly but sometimes in New York as well. I kept a diary over this time and it records the disorientation I felt. I expected a solid world of beauty. I found disruption, dull objects, oblique performances, and government grants that looked to seek more social workers than artists.
Art was never supposed to be the elitist money-driven pursuit it now is. It’s not another commodity. It’s a public gift. Art is a cultural heritage that ought to be debated in public life. The public is uninterested for lots of reasons. But one of them is that artists working now are, like folks in any other sector, often spiritually disorganized. As a society we’ve given up on the idea that life is a moral and spiritual quest. A secondary cost to that loss is beautiful, relevant art.
What’s your take on beauty in your practice? What can artists do about the problem of beauty missing in art?