I met Serena at the Hen House, a diner in Kingsbury, for lunch. I often get the name wrong calling it the Happy Hen. Serena said that’s because when we meet there, we do a lot of clucking. And we did about 3 hours worth of clucking today and didn’t even get the chocolate cake for dessert.
One of the things we clucked about was the idea of making our work accessible to as many people as possible. I remeber reading in a Joseph Campbell book the story of the three artists. The first made exactly what he wanted and didn’t care if no one ever saw it or understood or bought it. The second got discouraged with the art world and quit making art altogether. The third compromised and keeping the integrity of his message, created his art in a form that was accessible to the masses, getting his message to reach far and touch many people.
This third artist reminds me of Walt Whitman who wrote rave reviews in local newspapers of Leaves of Grass using a pseudonym. In some printings of the book he removed poems that referred to homosexuality in order to reach a larger audience. Sure this is censorship, but over 100 years later, we’re still reading Walt Whitman’s poems, even the ones he omitted.
When I was in art school, if I tried to make quilts or pillows, I would have been kicked or laughed out of class. I was making art that I could barely explain. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t something someone could take home and hang on their wall either. Years later when I started making quilts, I knew it was an art form anyone could understand and even use. I wanted to make and sell my art and I wanted to reach as many people as possible. I have my lines I won’t cross. And sometimes I have to cross them to know I don’t want to. But I’m so much happier and more fulfilled and having more fun than when I was making art that spoke to only a handful of people. Sometimes you have to change and compromise to be able to do what you want to do.