Obstacles and Tests

Talking with my friend Chris Gergley about the art world and the obstacles we all face in our careers, it came to me that I have been too one-sided in my stress on objectivity. Yes, art is objective, and yes one wants to let it stand alone and produce its own meanings, but it still needs a human enabler; art has its own life but can’t live without a person to sustain it. Might sound obvious, but it’s not—at least not in the realms of abstraction. What brought these thoughts to mind were practical problems and difficulties. Chris and I agreed that if an artist calculates their market, or makes work to meet the expectations of curators or collectors, then they really don’t think their work is worth anything. Such behavior is deeply self negating. But it can be hard when one is struggling to find one’s own language—social pressures have to be overcome, and one of the worst, in our experience, is the need and desire to be anointed and given professional help by a more successful artist. In a way that is the canonical career path, but we’ve both seen how many young artists sacrifice their own identity to fit in, how they adapt and suppress their work to enable a smooth follow on with the work of someone else. That’s tragic, but it’s also a test. An artist has to be free inside and out. Formal freedom is a given today, there are no rules, but the feeling of freedom—the freedom to think, feel, respond and create as one needs to do—has to be achieved, often against resistance. It isn’t easy and it can be painful. But if you can’t do it then you betray the work; it doesn’t get a chance to be autonomous, and its possibilities will not be realized.

Robert Linsley, Untitled watercolor 2014

Robert Linsley, Untitled watercolor 2013

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