I went to a panel conversation on Friday between Ted Purves and Randall Szott, called "Let's Talk About Love: How to Succeed in Art Without Really Trying" which turned out to be a depressing way to slide into the weekend. Their conversation basically digressed as follows: Artists work really hard. Who are they working for? They are working for the art market. Their art-making is a job. Jobs aren't fun or expressive. What's the opposite of a job? Leisure is. So is love. You do what you love in your leisure. Leisure is free-time and relaxing. You cannot make art for an art-market simultaneously with leisure. You cannot love your job. So the best kind of art is when you don't try. The best kind of art might not even be art. Art is made to serve a purpose. Leisure is time spent without purpose. Therefore art cannot be genuine. Only leisure is genuine. (and on and on and on)
So somewhere in there I became pretty disgusted because, well, my work is all about love and I love to do my work. Apparently Randall Szott went to grad school for two years and intentionally made nothing during this time. I kept raising my hand because I wanted him to talk more about the intersections about love and work, especially within the context of CCA, which was founded as a craft school. I also wanted to know if he thought a woman or a non-white person could get away with going to grad school and making nothing. To his credit, he kept denying claims that he was an artist and that he was making art by making nothing. I guess, in some twisted sort of way, I found what he was saying funny because he was self-deprecating. But I think that what I was feeling was just a reflection of the recent unfortunate excitement over contemporary white bad-boy artists who make art that is poorly made and poorly concieved-- as if apathy was the smartest thing ever. It is not. People have been apathetic in America generations-- as a graduate of small Ne England liberal arts college, I have met many of them.
Ironically, I had brought a small drawing to work on while I was there, and wound up leaving early because I found the conversation distracting from what I was doing. I'm not sure if a white guy with a college and masters degree should be able to talk to a room full of students about leisure without talking about his race and gender and how they afford him that opportunity. I grew up in a middle-class white family, and accredit the ease of continuing my education to that upbringing. I also witness my parents struggle over their finances and work really hard in order to make everything possible. I think a big part of my work ethic is this insurgent feeling of guilt-- that I owe something to my family, my community, my world in return for the luck I've been afforded so far. I question this guilt sometimes, but for now it keeps me going.