For some, the earliest childhood memories are from when they were only months old, just a sound or the sky or the safety of arms. Others remember events from an age when experts say they shouldn’t be able to remember anything at all.
My memory’s not as good as that, but one of my early memories – I was maybe 3 or so – is in my head as a photograph. It’s a B&W picture of my front yard – of me and my brother and our next-door neighbor Patty – or at least I think I’m in it. Or maybe my Dad was in it and I was not. But even if I am in it, I remember the photograph as being from my point-of-view, 3-year-old high, as if I pressed the shutter.
So with that simple scene as my early memory, and now a lifetime of making images, I guess I can say pretty confidently that I am, maybe always have been, a photographer. But I’m pretty sure I’m not an artist. I mean, I didn’t study art, don’t have any art degrees, I can’t read or speak artspeak without just messing it all up, I don’t even know anyone named Art. I colored inside the lines, preferred staying clean, excelled in math, side-stepped drugs. I’m not in collections or shown in museums, I infrequently exhibit and even more rarely sell. And my ‘fine art coffee table book’… well let’s just thank the lord for ‘print on demand’.
Art is everywhere. Everyone I know is an Artist. The Art World is full of artists, but also people and companies and organizations and schools and foundations and websites and blogs and non-profits who support artists, many by offering training programs for artists to be better artists, more successful artists, and providing artists with exhibitions and competitions and fundraisers and galas where artists have an opportunity to pay to submit their art, or even donate their art, in support of these institutions that support the arts. Artists pay to be reviewed and juried and curated and written about and matriculated in classrooms and contests and festivals and workshops and seminars. Artists attend the art openings of their fellow artists too – but it’s rare that art is actually purchased by artists. And when it is, artists give artists an artist’s discount because they know how hard it is to make enough money as an artist to be able to actually own another artist’s art.
I wonder, at the end of the day, if the art world isn’t just a big art installation, a performance piece in defense of a masters thesis launched centuries ago in a cave by a guy with a charred stick and a radical idea, whose final exam became our reality. And if we could follow the path (is it the artist’s way?) it would lead to the cloaked mouth of that cave where the artspeak still bellows forth, and we’re warned by the guard to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain in the leopard pants with green hair and a walking stick wearing love beads and a fur wrap – that powerful wizard named – Art.
* Oh, and please don’t forget about my workshop this weekend!
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