My husband and I were invited to the unveiling of one of Makoto Fujimura’s most recent paintings commissioned by a local couple. It was a great experience getting to see a great painter of our time describe a little bit of his process specifically. Fujimura also used the time to discuss his latest publication, Culture Care. It was an enlightening experience to hear the artist’s convictions around generative culture and mostly, for me, caring for artists.
I’ve been in a fragile place lately. I’ve graduated with my Master’s degree in mid-May and have been searching for a job since. My dreams don’t involve working for someone else, so people don’t want to hire me to work for them. Further… I’ve been convinced that I’ve pursued two degrees in the most massively obscure fields: photography (focused in analog processes) and spiritual direction. Last week was one of my hardest weeks in job-searching so far. I’ve been putting out 3-10 applications a day, have had two interviews, and endless “unfortunately” emails. When you naturally have a degraded idea of self… this process is endlessly depressing. Therefore, Fujimura’s conversation could not have come at a better time.
I teared-up multiple times throughout his presentation including when he explained to the audience that the fact that he is reliant only on his art and art-making as a career makes him a miracle. Even more impactful, Fujimura said that we owe artists our life and our children’s lives because when it comes to culture, they are the voice, the megaphone, the barometer of culture. I lost it.
However, I wasn’t completely sold. It wasn’t an evening of total inspiration and encouragement. It was a night of pain too. I’m incredibly thankful for Fujimura and his convictions and the conversations he is amplifying in this world. However, the pessimist and selfish artist-diva in me wishes we were farther along than we are. How many people that came to this unveiling only have one name come to mind when they think of ‘artist’? How many people went home full and glowing because they ‘experienced art’ that evening? How many people, therefore, were satisfied with that evening only?
I dream of a world where every individual can rattle-off at least one handful of names of artists they know. Further, I dream of a world where those handful of artists are a mix of high-profile and scrounging-for-Ramen.
This may simply be my own issue surfacing, but I do believe it is still extremely difficult for an artist to be an artist today. Some may argue it’s easier than it used to be, but with the rise of contemporary art museums and pop art, it is still very difficult, I believe, for one committed to conceptual work and traditional processes of old to support themselves entirely from their artwork alone. Fujimura mentioned this as well. When he mentioned that we were looking at a miracle in this sense, he mentioned how difficult it is to be a successful artist today.
The artist’s plight is difficult because our culture values the artwork or the artist as a means to an end. I know that’s an audacious statement to some, but I truly believe it. We value the aesthetic of the day… but pigeon-hole our experience of art into that very specific aesthetic. Further, we aren’t learned in the skills, processes, costs, and concepts of art OR what value and benefit art brings to our world, experience, and personal as well cosmic (over expansive time) wellbeing.
So then, my question became… “what can I do?”
I cannot simply sit and complain about the current state of things and not do anything… though that would be the lie and curse of being an artist… that we have nothing to give or say that will actually change things. When, in reality, that is precisely the role of the artist!
And so, my husband and I have decided to facilitate conversation around creatives and their work.
Find out more here.