As an artist in modern times, we often get bogged down by putting food on the table. The necessary evil of living in a capitalistic society as an artist is that often times, the line between creation and survival is a tiny, microscopic thread. And if we spend too much time focused on one, the other suffers.
And in modern America, a country who has almost completely eliminated all social safety nets and one broken arm can bankrupt you, the focus is often placed on survival. Perpetually fighting to survive slowly snuffs out the creative muse. It just does.
During the Renaissance, when some of the greatest art and innovations of human kind occurred, artists didn’t have to make the choice between creating art and surviving. The aristocratic class supported the creative endeavors through patronage. For a reason.
I’m generalizing here, I get that, but a main reason for becoming a patron was so the artist could step into their brilliance and create art for the greater good. Simply put, people realized the power of art and supported it. Yes, these were largely ego-driven decisions so aristocrats could brag about the art they supported. Even so, art filled a major role in society and support was given so art could flourish and creators could just create.
As an artist whose spent decades walking the line of creation and survival, without trust funds, rich parents or a wealthy husband, I have to say that eventually, the fight for survival overrides the ability to create.
For so many years, working artists have created an internal system that tends to see how money can be made with their art in just about any and every capacity. And that crushes the actual art itself. Some artists have found the balance, and I applaud them! This very platform has empowered those artists to focus on just being artists. And that’s pretty amazing.
The commodification of art is a real and difficult challenge that every artist must face. Often.
We’re 4 months deep into this global pandemic. Some of us are staying home and looking out for the collective. Others are simply ignoring the call to support their communities and running about like everything is normal. Some are essential workers and fighting to balance actual survival, putting food on their table and serving the population who needs their labor. Others are fighting on the front lines of this pandemic and hoping the rest of us wake the fuck up and stay home.
I’m in a strange place. I’m able to use the unemployment to do just that, stay home. My business came to screeching halt when this virus hit. I applied for any and all aid and I’m staying home.
My vision for this time is to surrender into just being an artist again. To have the time and space to create art and NOT worry about survival. This is what the patronage of the Renaissance must have felt like, sort of.
But here’s the funny thing, I’ve been fighting to survive for so long, I don’t know how to turn off my unfortunate capitalistic mindset of converting art into commerce and simply be an artist again. And ironically, I’m a socialist. I’ve just been forced into this role of making money from art (or simply creating a business from my creativity) for so long that I don’t know how to turn it off. Truly.
I’ve lost the ability to give myself permission to simply create.
That said, I’m hoping that in recognizing this unfortunate side effect of being an artist in late stage capitalism, and stating it here publicly, that I’ll be able to surrender into creation and remove all need to think about income. For at least a few blissful months.
Until I have to be an artistic socialist stuck in the circus of capitalism again.