My question of concern is for the artist. What is the right balance of segregating from vs integrating with your community? Great artist such as Toulouse-Lautrec made artworks depicting the night life of the cities he occupied. He was heavily involved in this singular aspect of his community. Yet, he was connected. He was the fly on the wall, capturing the moment for all of use to see. While other artists like Jackson Pollock remained in their studios attempting to form a unique perspective on reality. But is either better than the other? In the grand scheme, all work is equal. It all holds potential for extracting feelings from us- this is the singular objective of any created object. But when it comes to acknowledging your connection to your society, what is the purpose of the artist?
We have all heard the well known adage about studio artists that they cut themselves off from the world to create their vision. Us introverts revel in the solitude of our studio space. Over time, our minds are spewed all over the walls of our studio, waiting to be spread to our community, local or global. On the other side of the fence, there are environmental artists whom only want their work created in public areas. Ethereal works that pass with the wind. They may search for a different or more personal validation, a closer connection to those they hope to inspire.
There are many unknowns that surface when this concept is applied to all artists but there are certain things all artists are aware of. As a commission painter, I have started to see things in a new light. The commissioned works I was doing initially weren't exactly what I was passionate about creating but it had a sense of necessity. That is when I came to terms with the importance of an artist for his community. He is their to help realize and inspire the visions of others. A banker doesn't only go home and count his money. A barber doesn't only cut his hair. So an artist shouldn't only realize his visions. Though sometimes it feels we are losing more than our time when doing work for others,in the end, there is only gain. Great connections and friendships are formed.
Commissions and murals call me to be in constant contact with my patrons to make sure I am executing above and beyond what they thought was possible. When your patrons cry as you leave a job site for the last time, you realize the potential of art. Art roots deep into the heart. It changes our thoughts.
I also had the realization that taking commissioned work was the opposite of my formal education. I still didn't get to chose my next assignment, yet I was being paid. Experience in getting work your community wants or needs feels quite different from aimlessly pretending to fulfill a design clients wants. Schooling is an astounding gift and tool to better one's self. Even if its only achievement is showing you what you don't ever want to do again, the process of learning is worth gold. We must remember artists are the voice of the community. If we only represent ourselves, we represent no one. In other words, do the opposite of the American government; listen to your constituents.