Is My Pain My Job?

Friday, January 18, 2013

As an art student, first undergraduate and then graduate, I’m used to hearing contradictory critiques from faculty. Some like my drawing and painting skills, but not my subject matter.  Some like my subject matter and think my skills are irrelevant or even unfortunate.  Some don’t care about subject matter, just method, material, and abstract formal considerations.

But what I hear more than anything else these days is that I must open myself up and reveal vulnerabilities and personal pain in my work.

I have to say, I didn’t see that one coming.  Maybe I should have.  But when I studied Ingres, and Rembrandt, Cezanne, and the Impressionists, representation of their personal pain was not why their art was great.  Were their personal lives painful?  Of course.  Was that pain their primary subject matter?  Of course not.

Is this a result of the reality t.v./confessional era in which we live?  Dunno.   But when I think of mining the parts of my life that are no one else’s business, a couple of things happen.  First, I get really really angry.  And second, I get ideas about how to put that anger into my paintings.  Damn it.