“make the bastards deny it.”
As regular readers know, I’m pretty vocal about politics. I’ve been told by a lot of my regular collectors that they like this- while they may disagree with me on certain issues, they also appreciate knowing where my head is at, and find my rants either amusing or rousing, depending on their own stance.
I was recently talking to another artist I know, though, who said that he keeps his opinions to only his personal circle, because he’s afraid that the people who buy his work might stop buying it if he speaks his mind.
Now, this guy doesn’t hold any really fringe ideas, like I do sometimes. He’s a lot more centrist than me, his opinions are not really all that strange. I mean to say, he’s not like politically supporting puppy-kicking as a national sport, or anything outlandish like that. Nothing unusual enough to put him at too much risk of heavily alienating most people, I’d think.
His worry, and I quote, is that “because I want health coverage, I think the richer people who collect my work will think I’m some kind of welfare leech, those people think that way. If I spoke my mind, some of them would find out I despise them and think they’re the leeches, that their politics are the politics of greed and I don’t want to go broke because a few rich people want to not have to pay taxes, and get angry when I say I think they should”. He was really upset about this subject, because he’s working with a cause group for an issue and feels like he can’t talk openly about those efforts. And it’s a cause he really believes in, so he feels like he can’t support it publicly…which sucks.
Man, am I ever lucky that most of my collectors are people who don’t earn a billion a year. I used to get envy for this guy- I mean, he makes a really good living, he can afford a nice car and a visit to the dentist and a hundred other things out of my price range, all from selling his art. But! the price is his integrity, in a way. He has to kiss ass. He has to keep his dirty prole mouth shut, in order to pay rent on that big studio.
I kind of feel bad for him. But at the same time, I understand. I’ve said a lot of things very publicly that I’m sure have turned some people away from my work, whether it’s my support for abortion rights, access to health care for all, my hatred for landlords, or that I like volvos…if someone wants a reason not to buy some art, they’ll find one.
I blame my own openness on my previous involvement with groups like QN/ACTUP, and AYF, among others, back in my younger years. Silence=death, truer words were never shouted out loud. I learned from my early political growth that speaking your mind is important to the world, that keeping quiet allowed bad things to continue and that being outspoken was almost something you owed the world…
If someone is moved by something they will buy it- they’ll almost HAVE to buy it. The reasons not to buy will not even get found, discussed, or considered. I could be really wrong about this, but I think most people who buy art (except for “investing in art” type people…who only care about your notoriety) are buying art that speaks to them, not supporting some cause, or looking for politics, or whatever. They just like the art. The artist is only important to them in the sense of backstory for something they want to look at often- we’re only the maker. We’re not and shouldn’t be, the selling point.
“you got politics in my paint”
But then again conventional wisdom is that artists need to have some kind of shiny personality or quirkiness and “sell themselves” and show up at opening to glad-hand everyone. If that was an indicator of good art, Ron Popeil would be a better artist than Van Gogh (who was fairly anti-social, actually).
People like me who are a bit less interested in the social aspects of selling art, or people like my friend who are crushed by that, have a really hard time sometimes. It’s one of the reasons I have turned down the few “actual gallery” offers I’ve gotten. I don’t want to change who I am, live in town, go out and drink wine and talk in a crowded room. I just don’t. I show in bars, in little galleries (like the Unfine Art Museum) that allow me the freedom of being an asshole if I want to be.
I mean, I’d love to have the exposure and funds my friend has, but not at the price he’s paying for it, if you know what I mean.
Now, with tattooing, I’ll argue the whole time I work on someone. Hearty debates make the time pass, and it seems like they distract people from the pain of the tattoo time, which is a good thing. I have tons of tattoo clientele who disagree with me really vocally and intensely on things, and some of those conversations are the ones I treasure, and remember for a long time after. In tattooing it’s less of an impediment I think. The connection you get with people you’ve tattooed is totally different than the one people get by buying some art for the wall. It’s a lot more alive, more intense and personal. For me, it’s a really good contrast to the way the art world seems to be- there’s no question of manners and politeness and being “nice”: just loud, blunt, openness.
It’s a good thing for me to have in my life. I think being that open, for me, has been more an advantage than a drawback. For my friend, maybe he just needs to find collectors that agree with him. Who knows? I don’t.
time to make the donuts