ART PROBLEMS

Remember those adds satarising teenagers taking up art as a problem; “One in five teenagers will exeriment with art” or “doodling is a gateway to illustration” with an image of a concerned parent having a ‘talk’ with their teenager. What harm could art possibly do you ask? Of course any parent would prefer their child do art rather than the insinuated alternative of drug addiction. But parents also have a fear of their children becoming artists, and it is mainly about the risky jackpot economy that being an artist entails. The parents are afraid they will be supporting this kid forever, if they do art they will never get on their feet, get a job, buy a house, start a family, have holidays or ever retire.

A number of years ago I agreed to take part in a long term study of gambling practices in Victoria. I would get a phone call every six months or so asking me the same questions. While answering I thinakfully reflected I didn’t have a gambling problem in the way they survey was targeting, but if they had been asking me about the financial risks I take being an artist I am certain I would have been scoring off the charts.

The pervading myths and stereotypes of the artist have always been economic whether they are starving in garrets or selling their work for outlandish prices – art is a con, seducing artists and the public alike with its snake oil charms of access to freedom, self-expression, genius, talent, unconventional lifestyles, beauty, taste, infamy and status.

For the aspiring artists the repeated mantra of the judges on Australian Idol, The Voice and co is “never give up on your dream” and “always believe in yourself”, but when does it tip into deluded or enough already! Not everyone can be an artist and not all art will go down in history. And what’s this infantalising job of being an artist anyway. Always coming back next year, trying again, dependant on others approval or fiting into prize or funding criteria, giving up more, expecting less, becoming leaner, nomadic, homeless, on the outer fringes of an everyday successful life you thought you didn’t want as a young artist.

Its more like “don’t give up your day job”. Artists are very hard working and industrious, but our wage jobs often play second dfiddle to our art job as we are always buying time to get busy in our studio or inside our heads. An artist’s authenticity is weakened by competing identities, because the expectation of the artist is that we give it out all – never acknowledging the constraints that a long term low income produce in an artists life. “Opportunities” more often than not cost artists money the more opportunities you get only deepen this reality as the pot is rarely replenished. Its true that being an artist long term can actually cause financial destitution.

Countesses.blogspot.com for many years has provided ample evidence the funded and for profit culture industries are run on elitist gate-keeper system that continues to be structurally unfair easily seen in the lack of diverse representation in galleries exhibition programs and public collections, while 75% of visual art graduates are women, only 34% of living contemporary artists exhibited in our national state galleries were women. Yet artists continue to exist in light of such conflicting messages. Art is such a powerfully addictive vice that it really does put a spell on many who follow it.