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Guest Writer

Self vs. show: the starving artist effect
by Tania Rain

Galleries and museums are flooded with art lovers, viewers and critics. But only a small amount of these people are actually buyers and collectors.

Art is not in huge demand by the majority of the populace, especially when middle America can go to the local Target and buy framed "art" for $19.95. This is why the terms "starving" and "artist" seem to go hand in hand. So why strive to be an artist if you are dooming yourself to a life of famine? Why create art?

It seems that most artists fit into two categories: self and show. Those who do it for self can become successful because they set their own limits of success, but those who do it for show in galleries, museums and public arenas are allowing the public to determine their success.

A lot of people call themselves artists. This is because art is filled with passion no matter if you do it for yourself or for an audience. Art is not for everyone; it is a tool used for communication. Whether you choose paintbrush, pen, camera or guitar, with enough passion and drive, one can succeed. Often, art for one’s self expresses autobiographical concerns. Artists explore social commentary, cultural issues and psychological anxieties. This sort of art usually appeals to viewers who have a connection with the issue being depicted. No wonder art that is done for one’s own personal exploration lacks public enthusiasm unless the public identifies with it. To succeed at this kind of art is to succeed inside one’s self by reaching one’s own expectations.

A strong need to create art can be an obsession. Artists who produce excessively have something they need to let go of. Some people make excessively large canvasses, some produce hundreds of small drawings, and some stay locked in recording studios for hours at a time. This comes from a strong desire to create for one’s self and to let go of stored energy.

Art therapy is a tool used to release through expression for the self. Research suggests that children who are involved in after-school art programs do better scholastically. Art does have a place in society, but most often it lacks its true value.

Producing for show takes dedication from the artist. There are guidelines that artists need to meet in order to book exhibitions. Galleries require portfolios, artist statements and resumes. Galleries also look for salable art. Those who want to be artists to become successful will find it to be a challenge. By conforming to industry guidelines and producing salable art, the artists give up part of themselves. These artists are into their art for the wrong reason.

See more from Tania in our archives.

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