Roberta Smith has an interesting article up on the words of the art world. The word practice is one I’ve had some trouble with, so I was glad to read what she had to say about it.
I’m with her: I don’t practice art. I live it and not just when I am in my studio. In fact, the studio really just gets the tail-end, a summation/execution of an ongoing activity, and one without end.
The word practice does give what an artist does this sense of authority and academic absolution, as she points out. I think that’s another reason I’ve become uncomfortable with it. It doesn’t describe at all what an artist is doing. Art is not something you do in your studio. It is not something I worked on yesterday afternoon from 2 to 6pm.
Perhaps my old neighbor said it best. We grew up together but I hadn’t seen her in years, decades. She had the great wisdom to define what I became better than I could. She was a nuclear physicist too! But she said: “When I leave my job, it’s over. But you are always an artist.”
Recently I had the word in this piece of fiction I am writing and it felt a little odd, without really knowing why - until I read Roberta Smith. The story takes place in the underground art scene of 25 years ago and that word wasn’t tossed around like that then. It did not feel authentic and now I know why. It’s a term I have adopted like just about everyone else, but I’m done now.