Sunday, June 3, 2012
How often we get locked into a box may be less than how often we lock ourselves in. At a recent social event I went to with some friends, I ended up talking for a few minutes to a young artist. At these kind of things there are almost always a bunch of people who present themselves as artists, and while I believe wholeheartedly that we are all art spirits, I often take the announcement with a grain of salt. This guy was a graffiti artist, a form I deeply respect when it's done well, and at the mention of a few of his pieces around town, I recalled that I liked very much what I saw. So somebody asked him if he would do commissioned in-home murals, which is where it got interesting. He wasn't rude, but his face very quickly took on a few years around the edges and a deep weariness appeared around his eyes. He said he has done commissions before, that he probably would again, but that right now he couldn't be any further from caring about commercialism. For a graffiti artist, it might seem like commercialism would be the goal. It affords them a way to make money and gain some notoriety for what they do. But not everyone wants to be Shepard Fairey, like not every traditional painter wants to be the Rembrandt of their day. Despite what your tv would have you believe, money is not the ultimate. It's pretty nice, but if it becomes the reason then something really vital may have been lost. So what made our artist perk back up? Though cryptic and vague, he explained that he has something new he's working on. Something new. The way that he explained it was a boomerang that could use the full energy of the sun to shoot out to the edge of the galaxy and then back home. Solar sails? He said, kind of. It wouldn't work, detractors insisted. He just shrugged and said that it's hard to explain. I don't know what he's working on, but acording to him, it is like nothing he's ever seen and like nothing he's ever done. I'm sold. There's something so moving and electrifying about an artist on the rickety edge of their own exploration. Instead of a nice, easily recitable three sentence explanation of me, my influences, my medium and message, I could just tell people how it feels. If it's something honest, it should feel like all kinds of things. Right now, I feel like my first phase is heading to a close. What comes next is new territory. I am leaving home. I think I'll take a note from the spraycan spaceman and tell everyone I meet that I'm working on transparent pet clothing, or that I'm making a map of only corners. I think I'd love to hear people explain their projects this way. It would be confusing, yes, but that's better than predictable any day.