25 October 2009


"Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first, the lesson afterward."

As interesting as the above quote is, there's a ring of truth in it that cannot be denied. So far, I have no idea how I am doing on my test, nor even how much longer it is. More still, I have no idea as to the lesson I am to learn or even if its one I CAN learn. In school, I did fairly well on exams. Even if I didn't study or prepare myself for them, I had a knack for knowing HOW to take tests, especially ones that were multiple choice. I learned to deduce the correct answer in most cases to at least earn a low "B". In the event where the answers took essay form, I learned to basically BS my way around for at least partial credit. It was the fill in the blank questions that usually got the better of me. Even then, I could answer some of the questions by continuing to read the following questions, hoping for a clue.

Where am I going with this? Good question, because I am not all so sure. My current challenges in a city with drastically high unemployment still remain. Yes, that's the more obvious and probably more pertinant situation that I most needs to resolve. However its the conundrum of my photographic art that has me slightly puzzled at the moment. I often meet potential models in my comings and goings of daily living. As I meet someone I may happen to be interested in shooting, I make no hesitations in introducing myself and asking. It just so happened that earlier this week, while at a Denny's restaurant, a young lady I spoke to about my work asked me what it was that I did with my art since I made no real effort to profit from it. Of course I explained that as any artist, my endeavors are to exhibit and share it. I explained that I did so on my web site and blog. She looked at me, as if to say, "That's it?". Or maybe I just read that into her pause, as she starred at me, waiting for more in my answer.
Another potential model even earlier than the last, asked if I was any good. With my chest thrown out and a slight smirk on my face, I tried to resist a prideful or boastful answer, so I kept it simple and said, "Of course." But then she asked, "Says who?" I found myself searching for an answer that wouldn't set myself up for a response like the one you get when someone says, "Beauty comes from within." To which the popular response is, "That's what ugly people say".

So how much creditablility does an artist need before he's officially "good"? Does that warrrant being famous and well-known? Then at what level do you achieve that? Does local cred count? How do you get famous in the nude art arena? How do you establish yourself as "good"? I know I like my own work, but then that's kind of like asking a mother if she thinks her child is a handsome or pretty. Is doing art for the sake of art not enough or are credentials necessary to validate your street cred? Who knows? These are just a few other things I have to figure out for myself. Now that I have time on my hands, I can contemplate these things.


unbearable lightness said...

Terrell, this is a frustrating post. I wonder almost every day why modeling nude is worth all the trouble. I see my work in shows sometimes, and that's another thing it is all about, and like you I share it online. It makes me very sad though, about my own work and that of others, to think this is it.

So why continue?

It has to do more with the enjoyment of the doing than with any disposition of the end result. I never wrote anything I did not try to publish, but even then when you publish poetry, it's mostly read only by other poets, just as our work is mostly appreciated by others who do the same thing.

So the reward is in the doing and seeing what you have done.

You and I messaged about comments today. You mentioned the MM formula - if you receive a comment, you owe whoever left it three. That's just hogwash. I don't want obligatory comments, and I don't play games. I leave comments on work that knocks me out. I hope others do the same with me.

I could say more, but I may just continue this comment with a post about your post.

Dave Levingston said...

Martha Graham wrote this to Agnes de Mille.

"There is a vitality, a life force...that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open..."

Photo Anthems.com said...

Damn, Dave. That's deep, but I do understand it.

Phydeau said...

I think if there was a clear-cut answer on how to be a "good" artist, there would be no more good artists. Everyone would be following the same formula down to the cookie-cutters.
Fortune, fame, and acclaim are only a few measures of success in the arts, and none of them (even in combination, let alone individually) are free from subjectivity.
It's a bit like looking through a glass window to see what the weather is like. The big things are easy - day/night, overcast/clear, etc. But temperature, humidity, and wind can be a little trickier to determine. And here's where it all goes to hell . . . Even the WEATHER is subjective! I remember one hot, muggy, stifling day where my clothes were sticking to me, and the only thing I could think is "Damn! And it's only April. This Summer is going to suck." When an overly chipper woman smiled to me and said, "Isn't it a lovely day? I'm glad Winter's finally over!" She was obviously a local. My friends back home would have sided with me.

Ultimately, though, any artist will tell you that if you're doing something for any other reason than that you simply have to from the core of your being, you're doing it wrong. And conversely, if you're not doing what your heart is screaming to do, you cease to exist.

What makes you good? Only YOU can answer that. My answer to the question "Are you any good?" would have been "I like to think so." It would have avoided that follow-up question. (Though possibly leading to this discussion.)

Photo Anthems.com said...

Phydeau, I'm starting to wonder whether or not you are my mom, under a quickly assumed pseudonym. I say that because I know she's told me that before. But you are correct. The trick lies in the balance between doing what your heart tells you, in which you derive your intrinsic rewards; or letting everyone else be the judge for the more extrinsic fashion. Of coure I love what I do and I want to do it better as well as more often. Yet still, all artists desire to exhibit and be recognized for their successes. Right?

Rachel Lovitt said...

The Martha Graham quote says what I feel. I need to create. It is a part of who I am. It is my expression, my cathartic act of being. I leave a piece of myself in every image, but I also take so much away from the work. I enjoy the act, I enjoy the product. I revel in what I have accomplished, and I look for ways to do better next time. It is a passion, a pleasure, and a pain all in one powerful experience of creation.

Photo Anthems.com said...

"It is a passion, a pleasure, and a pain all in one powerful experience of creation."

I couldn't agree more, Rachel.


Karl said...

Another aspect of art appreciation I come up against is that "Art must be pretty!" That is BS in my mind. Sadly though, more people believe that a pleasant photo of sunset over Yosemite is better art than a nude, a war photo, or a photo of environmental disaster. Look at Salgado photo of famine in Africa. They are stunningly beautiful prints, but the subject matter rips your heart out and teaches you a lesson.

Until people are willing to understand that art is not just pretty things or ornaments to be hung in the home, the perception of being any good will be lost on the masses.