Monday, February 14, 2011

Who can be called an Artist?

Recently I watched a documentary called "Lives of the Artists". It was a beautiful film well worth the watch. But it brings up a common question of who can be called an Artist? The film tracks a snowboarder, a band, and 3 surfers.  Would you consider any of these positions to be one held by an Artist? I personally get defensive over the term and title.  Often times people say "oh my (so and so, brother/sister/friend etc) is an artist." Most times it is them trying to relate but upon further questioning I usually find that their so and so is expressing themselves artistically and not really an artist.  I remember the big push years ago for Subway restaurants to call their sandwich makers "Sandwich artists", I could never take it seriously and if I was not supposed to I didn't like them using the term as a joke.

But this documentary actually opened me up a bit, I would never have called a snowboarder an artist but Xavier De Le Rue really had some of the most profound things to say about vision, line, and experience. The band Gallows, although not my personal taste in music had some great things to say about the position of the artist and their relationship with emotion. They see their band not as a permanent thing but as a body of work that has to end or else it becomes a mockery of itself. 

So often the term Artist is thrown around when it should not be. I know there are many camps on this issue some seeing it as superfluous while some see it as a person issue of identity.  I think back to a talk I heard as a student where the artist was definitely in the camp of personal identity and pointed out that we do not throw around other professions in the same way maybe since a large amount of the population do not value the position of the artist nor fully understand it. This speaker went on to say "If I made model bridges in my basement out of toothpicks would I call myself an engineer or architect? Then why does the person who paints out of hobby on the weekend get the title Artist?"(loose quote, it was a talk in 1999)

So what do you think? Do you think it is a matter at all?

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