Sunday, December 17, 2006

A comment I overheard that was bothering me

To set the stage: Yesterday. I am sick, trying to get over a 24 hour bug. In my studio, behind the walls to the gallery. Working. There is no way to prevent the "salesman's" words from floating into my sacred space. I have only two hours to work. We are headed to Charlotte. There is an exhibit just outside my space.

Salesman, to potential client: Life is too short to sell bad art.
Potential client: That's true.
Salesman: Actually, life's too short to make bad art.
My blood boils. I don't even know why.

Why am I offended? Am I really so insecure? Am I so pathetic as to think that these people are laughing at my work? What's the source of my irritation?

I've been thinking about this since then. I've seen two productions of Nutcracker, recovered from a stomach problem, traveled out and back into state, and still I've been questioning these words and my reaction.

What have I learned?

Well, I'm not really so insecure. I don't think anyone was referring to my work, but I am absolutely certain that this sort of statement ought to make every artist, in any medium, angry. Without the freedom to create "bad art", nothing new and exciting would ever happen. "Good art" doesn't simply flow from the brush of a talented painter or sing from the strings of a brilliant violinist. "Good art" REQUIRES "Bad art". How many horrible, amateurish ballets have I sat through in order to fully understand, appreciate, and appropriately admire a good performance? How many did it take to make Mathias a "good dancer"?

The first part of the conversation might be correct. For the "salesman", life might be too short to sell "bad art". Yet, setting himself up as an expert, he stated the remaining bit as if FACT. It isn't fact. It isn't even slightest true. I resent the misrepresentation. I resent a lie being spoken as gospel truth.

I needed to write these words for a few reasons. First, because the issue has weighed heavily in my mind. Second, because I am about to write my observations of two Nutcracker productions and am struggling with value terms: good vs. bad. And, third, because it is one of the first times that I can firmly say that I wasn't pulled into a wave of negativism by overheard comments.

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