The other day, one of the Real Estate agents who was showing our house made a comment about a painting we have hanging on our wall. When she found out who the artist was she went on a 10 minute rant about how the painter was just coping what she had learned from her teacher (a well known and established artist). She said her teacher had been doing the same type of paintings in the 90′s and had moved on while his student was still doing the same thing over and over. She said real artists are changing all the time, not doing the same thing over and over again. She made declarative statements about how the artist who painted our picture was not a real artist and how her teacher was. Apparently, the real estate agent is also an artist, but I didn’t get to find out what kind of work she does, because by the time she was done talking, I just wanted to get away from her.
But it did get me thinking about all the ideas and judgements that people have about artists and their work. Probably some of them come from anger and jealousy and some from experience and being thoughtful. As this woman was ranting about being original and real, I was thinking of all the artists who’ve painted or sculpted the same subject again and again, (take the Madonna and child for instance). I thought of photographer Cindy Sherman’s self portraits and how Nancy Grossman made her sculpted leather covered head for over 20 years and how many times did Monet paint haystacks.
Then I thought of my own work. How from the outside it may seem like I’m doing the same thing over and over. But I know I learn something new with each piece. I get better at what I’m doing and make changes constantly, some subtle, some more obvious. When I look at some of my first steaming pieces compared to the ones I’m doing now, they are very different. From the images to the words to the process. They’ve also led to other work, my collage pillows, wall hangings and potholders. Sure there’s repetition, that’s how you work out ideas, by exploring them again and again. I think art is a practice. You don’t “get there” you just keep doing it.
And maybe this is what the Real Estate agent meant. Maybe we agree on part of what she was saying after all. The part I have trouble with is the if the painter who painted the picture in our living room isn’t a real artist, what is she? A fake artist? I would think a fake artist is someone who calls themselves an artist but doesn’t make art.
I don’t know what the intentions are of the artist who painted the picture on our wall. And I don’t know that her work isn’t changing and growing all the time, even if she has been painting barns for 20 years. And although I don’t know how intimate the real estate agent is with this artist and her work, I can’t imagine why she might want to go around condemning her for not being a real artist.
Probably, as it often is, it’s more about the Real Estate agent than the Artist. She seemed angry and opinionated and judgmental, maybe she’s rather be making more art instead of selling Real Estate.