Tuesday, December 25, 2007

the practice

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.


Anonymous said...
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Eva said...

Here's something on Modern Kicks.
And more on PORT.

nod said...

the words ...."we".... have chosen... are so droped from the sky.. it makes me giggle..sometimes.. I have fewer questions about the thought of a practicing artist... than I do a practicing doctor... an I think at this point it's all practice.. and I know it's all art.. I just like some art more than other art... somedays I really miss 22nd street... and having a glass of wine with you.. hope 2008 is magical.. in a good way....

Anonymous said...

Is this Donald my old roommate on 22nd?!

nod said...

yes ..smile.. I'm in Florida now
22nd street seems so far away


my email now... is
still trying to figure out this google bit...

Sheree Rensel said...

One of my art statement pet peeves usually comes after I tell someone I am an artist. Some will ask "So what kind of art are you INTO?" That just drives me crazy. Why I am not sure. I think it is because I equate being "into" something like sports or jazz or whatever. Also, imagine going up to those in other professions and asking so what kind of financial services, plumbing, medicine, etc. are you "into". It sounds stupid! I am not "INTO" my art. I make art because I am an artist. Maybe I am over sensitve! LOL LOL

Robin Maria Pedrero said...

I too recently blogged regarding Roberta Smith's article and how it struck a chord in me. Here I am responding to how your friend said you are always an artist, which is something I always say especially when I am speaking or doing a demo. Despite the previous history of odd day jobs I am and always have been an artist, even as a child. My practice? I am a creator, a fine artist. It's more than what I create it is part of who I am. I toyed with jumping on the band wagon but I am with you. To call what I do a "practice" just doesn't fit.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sheree and Robin,
Yes, I feel a little funy thinking of myself as a practicing artist. If I don't make art for a year, am I no longer one? Guilty I would feel, but I would still be an artist. Just a frustrated one.

I know some have likened practice to yoga and zen, but somehow I don't think it's the same thing. You can stop yoga, but even if you "quit" art and play chess, it doesn't change who you essentially are.

(That is, if you really are an artist. Some are putting on costumes, damnit.)

Sheree Rensel said...

Anonymous! I have a similar situation (mind set) going on with my teaching job. I am a National Board Certified Teacher. Big Whoop! Now before I berate this credential I should say it is a big deal in the teaching world. However, the only reason I did the work to attain that status was because it entitled me a opportunity to get more money.
This certification is about to end for me. I have to "recertify" if I want to continue to get the bucks. I don't want to do it. I think it is stupid. Also, I think if I don't do it, it will make me hungrier and I will market my art more. The reason I pulled up this metaphor after reading your post is because I did the work already. So if I don't recertify, does that mean I am not a great teacher anymore? I think the same goes for your life as an artist. Either you are or you aren't. It really doesn't matter if you take a break or not.
Just my thoughts.

40mph_dan said...

I agree there is a certain pretentiousness with the word "practice".

However, I think there is a positive usage. I'm thinking of "practice makes perfect". This is a constant problem for me-- being in my studio on a regular basis-- at this time, I am sincerely attempting to develop a practice.

Although, I doubt I would describe myself as having an Art Practice now or in the future.

If only Artists had the same vocational support system and resources as Doctors and Lawyers that affirms their existence in American society... "practice" would seem benign...