A friend of mine has been working more in teaching, involved with her art peers, a longtime dream. She told me, however, that she finds herself editing her life more and more. She mentioned selling shoes to someone the other day and they looked at her with a very measured skipped beat, as though she was divulging her leprosy.
Odd too, because at least in theory, we are often poised to take an interest in social issues, in the working class and even life of the streets - there's a great respect for art about life's dirty experiences. Just don't have any! Or if you do, don't talk about it. I know a little bit about this - when I told people how I was a maid at Portland's very own Hilton Hotel, you could almost feel the squirm. Yeah, that's right, cleaning 16 toilets a day. Imagine artists doing that.
Since my friend has had some times at the school of hard knocks, she's not all that interested in making art about them. No need to go there for street cred, that’s for sure. The elevated vision, a heroic vision, a pitch for beauty - is one that she fought tooth and nail for, just to get a glimpse at.
- Not to say that she’s not concerned about hunger, jail, suicide, domestic violence, alcohol abuse; maybe indeed a little too familiar. So much so that some of the trafficking in said territory by her art peers often looks a lot like, well, tourists. They did not grow up with it. It’s not a part of their interior view.
That still doesn’t bug her, as long as they don’t put their let’s-starve adoption on her or judge her work by that particular hunger. Some actually see fluff in beauty, can you believe that? In her case, the surface has a complex substance. Perhaps they believe it is predictable somehow, or a white man’s game. Wrong. It is possibly the game of those who did not grow up with food in the house.
I’m not saying that those of us who grew up hungry will never make art about it. But I do think it’s no accident that we like champagne (not PBR) and want to make beautiful things.