when I think of art, the context of where it is at always slightly baffles me. a rauschenberg can be in dallas, huge and high on a wall, or in a back alley and still we will know it as what it is. but that's rauschenberg. take another piece, something by tracey emin and put a bed in a room in a shit part of town and call it what it is: tracey's fucked up beautiful world. a mother's disappointment. but put it in a gallery in london and the context is brilliance. genius. wealth. bravery. money.
i am very interested in how the context of art can change the perception of one piece to the next, one set of eyes to the next- and the very worth of a human life or career depending on how white the box is. a white box gallery, i had the pleasure of destroying in houston with splatters and graffiti on the walls with my collage work in 2007. but the same work in my garage, some 6 years after, unsold, is depressing. a reminder of "when she was good." perhaps, my own ego and need to create, and guilt over not always doing so, has become my lifeblood. typical, as it seems to be, failed and nonworking artists turn curators and critics, intellectualizing & pontificating rather than sitting before a blank canvas.
because the real context for any artist, writer- even lover, musician and or careerist of creation is to wonder if "i'm good enough" and do we, as these lifelong shame-hoarders, have it in us to keep working and keep creating something new beyond what was last season's fascination? cyclical hope is depressing a thought as it is,well, hopeful. that childlike meandering beyond the everyday ho-hum is brave. tracey emin is brave, but to show her rawness, her sadness, that is why she is important. it might not be in the slightest bit universal to some critics, but from where i am, an equally self-obsessed & curiously 1980s-stuck artist, i find her finishing art business that was started in the early century and most people by the 1990s had gotten over. [another neon sign? okay. thanks. moving on.]
we seem to want for ourselves the inspiration and truth others can afford. if i could afford it, i'd be homeless, but that comes with knowing i can slum around and do copious amounts of drugs while coming back to safety. to have gravity. that is what allows a lot of artists to keep working. bukowski once wrote to get a disability check was a poet's good fortune. [paraphrasing] and that is true. in many ways, dropping out of society gave me an education in playfulness and failure that i had never had struggling to piss & shit in a toilet with no running water because i was too broke, too crazy or too lazy to pay the bills.
there is truth in sad art. but put my dirty dildos, empty pill bottles and smash-out cigarettes into the context of a white box gallery room, give it a polished audience in designer sacks and black hipster glasses and year after year, it becomes a sort of universal touchstone- a truth and anchor to ourselves, the hidden grossness of who we all really are when alone. it's not a set decorator's choice, unless she's working on a david lynch film, but it is, it *is* the very grit and grime of our amusing, disgusting lives. and i like that. i love tears. and i adore disgusting.
i like that about tracey emin. i love that about rauschenberg.
and i like it about myself. because artists, whether they like it or not [and most of us HATE it] but we are egoists at our core. we aren't angels. we live in a bubble because once that bubble bursts, there is pain inside the release. it's fucking hard and painful to make art that is really messy and honest. however, the need is there. we have to reveal. we have to disinfect our brutally honest bullshit.
i hope i can start making it. [that kind of art] the handwritten journals over the last year are important to me because i've slowly been bloodletting the emotions and the crossed wires are getting more organized. i am finally out as a lesbian and finally, sigh, out as a failed artist. i hated the work i was doing. i hated the person i was. now, i feel like i can create in a messy studio, throwing my paint and collage work & basically -fundamentally- not care about context. there is daily bread and there is daily "head" and i was giving myself the latter for about 3 years in order to heal and become. but that grind is pathetic. while it has created something new in me now, i want to spit in my own face for losing precious honesty in order to feed a plastic baby doll. the real human, flesh and bone baby over here needed nurturing, yet i was just not the mama i needed to be to myself.
so when people have no context for art, the next time they see "ugly" or something really fucked up looking, i hope they can understand one thing- we are all vile creatures in need of a little release. every piece of honest art has a gross quality. even the most gorgeous painting has a slightbit if adversity it has overcome. we all need to be able to reach that- and invest in it as an audience. how even the ponce of a dapper dan can have a little mud on his shoe. the strongest M&A guy in the world might need a bit of panty-wearing to open his chest to keep breathing. these secret worlds create our humanity. some of us want to tell the secrets- and as artists- it's an ugly job. you have to have an open mind to hear a whispered secret and think about it in that context. like all great secrets, too, you kind of want to share it. so the whispering moves alone a line- and audience and art- are created, as well as the abstract "value" of art is given and rewarded the creator. it's a process that can take a night, a year, but mostly, it gives us the context we all search for our whole lives. being an artist can suck, though.
the pay is shit [unless you're tracey emin] and the work is often disregarded. but while that validation of the white box room can be nurturing, it cannot be the confidence artists need to be brave. those revelations are only in risk. that is a grown-up thing to do, being honest & creating new ways of seeing the world and ourselves... and nothing and no one can give it to us. it cannot have a predetermined price. it has to be *done* and failed. and repeated.
it's negotiated, gently, alone in the lab of our lonely studio.
in the quiet of gardens.
in the heartbreak of lovers.
in the solitude of tears.
in the morning bed, where our journals await us.
in writing because it's what we do; we write.
in making art because without it, we'd cut ourselves off from the feeding and care of the umbilical cord of the art universe.
i am in a public tea room and i hear no voices, but yet, all of the words are slipping into me. the context of creation here, is my attempt at being within the audience, while being completely alone in my head. i like that. the same way i like "cunt vernacular" by tracey emin- it's like saying "welcome to the party, but be warned... this art party is gonna get out of fucking hand and you'll probably make out with someone embarrassing."
but that's okay, man.
it's only art.