I wouldn’t consider myself an artist. Not yet. I hope to get there one day, but I have a long way to go.
That said, all artists (and aspiring artists) have an important question to ask themselves. What of accessibility? At the mention of the word the cynical part of me crawls into its shell to hide. It scoffs saying, “Accessibility? Forget other people! It is the act of expression that is important, not how it is received!” This part of me believes that accessibility means that every Tom, Dick and Harry would have their hands on my work, adding their own bias to it, and probably muddying the immaculate picture (or story) I imagine I have created.
Then there is the more optimistic side of me. This side usually comes out on top, and that is a good thing. It says, “That is the point of art. It is meant to be shared. In many ways, it is in fact the culmination of many shared experiences.”
Simply put, one side of me likes sharing, the other, not so much.
I imagine that this has always been a struggle for those who create. There is always an intended audience and as a result, there are usually people that aren’t the intended audience, people who surely won’t appreciate imaginative creation.
To further complicate the battle within me, there is this thing that has defined the twenty first century. It is called the internet and it has revolutionized the way that art and ideas are proliferated and shared. It has changed the way we view things so much that it has even altered our definitions of art. Art is available at the click of the mouse (or trackpad if you are using your laptop) and is often free of charge. No longer is access and consumption of art limited to those who can afford it or those who live in the right place, but to everyone.
This has two consequences that I, as an aspiring artist, am interested in. One, it makes it much easier to “break out.” In some ways that is. The vast internet allows me to self publish. I don’t have to go to publisher after publisher to get my work out there. If my art (or writing) is appreciated people will share it and it will naturally get the traffic that has become the sign of the successful artist. At the same time, whatever work I publish on the internet is immediately swept up into the current of what everyone else is publishing. It makes it much more difficult to stand out.
Another complication of internet publishing is that I imagine it as instantly cheapening any work. Art that is accessible to all is my definition of “cheap”. It means you can never fully trust your critics, never truly appreciate your fans, and your chances of getting paid? You might as well forget about that. Not that that is why anyone would make art, but it is a nice perk. As a blogger, I almost feel as though I have sold out. That if I was a real writer, I would be publishing. Not blogging.* In his memoir A Moveable Feast Hemingway writes about an encounter with one of his friends (I can’t remember who it was, maybe Ezra Pound or Scott Fitzgerald). His friend says, “The completely unambitious writer and the really good unpublished poem are the things we lack most. There is of course the problem of sustenance.” Blogging provides the opportunity for that poem and that writer to be published.
But I guess that brings me to what started this thought off in the first place. I was reading a piece on the street artist known as “Banksy.” One of the things people admire about his art is that he makes it available to people. It is his medium that makes him revolutionary and admired. He does art for the masses, because the masses deserve it. They shouldn’t be handed second rate garbage (though there are those who argue that that is exactly what Banksy’s art is). No, they deserve to be able to appreciate art just as much as the ultra wealthy.
I am caught in the middle of this dilemma. On the one had, I totally agree with Banksy. Why shouldn’t everyone have access to art? If it weren’t for institutions like public libraries, institutions that allow people like myself to access art, I would not have any interest in writing. But, there is also that part of me that wants to create “high” literature, “high art.” I want what I do to be thought well of and to leave a lasting impression on people. Maybe it is a little bit of pride. Maybe it is “the problem of sustenance” and my wish to somehow make a career out of this writing thing. In the end, I believe I will write simply because I must. I think that is why most people create art. It simply flows from them without their wishing it to.
*That is why you will not find all that I have written published on this blog. Some things are not good enough, others I want to save. In case there is ever the possibility of…