Is there a connection between artists being told what to do and the banality of most art seen in public places in the US? Bear with me here.
The connection might be called Unsolicited Advice.
I seem to get it all the time. Strangers walk into my studio, look around. “You know what you should do…” Then it begins.
A fellow artist walks into my studio. “You know what you should be doing …?” No, you do that. That suggestion has nothing to do with my work.
I’m not saying that I don’t like input and advice. In fact, I often ask for it and get terrific responses. Sometimes I don’t like the suggestion, but it might give me pause and force me to understand why I’m not heeding it. (As an aside, if I need my ego fed, I ask advice from my husband. He seems to think everything I do is wonderful. How cool is that?)
What I truly don’t understand is why do people insist on telling me what I should be doing. Do I look incompetent? Do I seem confused or aimless? Did I ask for advice? Am I your student?
Unsolicited Advice. It makes you question your judgment, censor your thoughts, keep your work safe.
Or, are you telling me what art to produce because you don’t like my work? Don’t understand it? It’s not what you expect? Ok. Tell me that instead.
A Buddhist friend tells me that I get so much unsolicited advice because I’m always giving it. Well, that should stop, shouldn’t it? OK, I’ll work on that, but there’s something more.
Do we really want all art to look alike? Are we so narrow or limited or lazy or stupid that we have to be spoon fed only paintings of little girls holding a bouquet, or a sailboat on the sea, or a field of sunflowers. I’ve created art with all these things, but this is all we can do? Can’t we create something that forces a viewer to spend more than 5 seconds with it before moving on?
Art should spark a conversation, link to another idea, inspire an action, even just solicit a smile. I’m not saying that every work produced has to be important or controversial or political. Our art should not just fade into the wall.
Take a look around at your bank, your hotel lobby, your dentist’s office. Do you notice the art? If not, ask why it’s there. I don’t think we really want everything the same. We don’t want to be told what we should be doing.