Friday, February 27, 2009

Indulging My Self

A comment on one of my recent posts referred to its content as self-indulgent. This isn't the first time someone has said this. But I'm not offended.
I agree.
My writing is sometimes self-indulgent. So is my art. I write and make art as a way of processing my own experiences in, or perceptions of, the world. My efforts don't nourish anyone (except, maybe, spiritually or intellectually). They don't give them shelter. They don't make them healthy or give them a basic education. In other words, they're not essential to anyone's existence other my own. The fact that I've dedicated my life to them is entirely about indulging my own urgent impulses – nothing else.
There are people who connect with my work in different media. It means a lot to me that others find meaning within what I do. It also saves me – if only because my egocentricity is transformed, in some sense, into community. As I write about myself, as a young woman and an artist, and about the experiences, perceptions and yes, prejudices that motivate me, I am trying to reach out and touch, inform, inspire and sometimes, enrage. But I don't expect always to be successful – and if I'm not, I don't really care. I do it because I have to. Which is another way of saying I do it for myself.
For a long time, I struggled with the innately selfish, self-indulgent, and solitary aspects of being an artist. I recognised there were higher vocations – just as there were, certainly, better jobs – and I admired them. But for better or worse I've learned to accept that I'm not suited to them.
I'm an artist. There's simply nothing else I can be.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I second that.

Anonymous said...

Art needn't always be self indulgent, it can be important and vital.

Anon said...

The artist has no role in determining an artwork's importance or its vitality. The artist creates it. What the audience ascribes to the work comes later.

Anonymous said...

I second THAT too

Anonymous said...

But surely the artist can make a work that communicates something quite other than self indulgence? That even if it doesn't become culturaly an important work it's theme or topic is something that needs to be urgently addressed?

I'm thinking

Goya May 3rd

Manet Execution of Maximilian

and the one that I'm strugling to think of other examples of, Guernica? I'm not educated enough to come up with less well known works.

Would you say that these works are not just self indulgences?

now now play nicely...

Anonymous said...

and to go on...

If the artist has no role in creating it's social importance or vitality then what are they doing? Just bashing out anything that then has it's ideas stuck on by it's audience?


I love thinking about these things, but it sounds so wanky, specially from me.

Phoinix said...

Being an artist though *is* a fairly important occupation - challenging the aesthetics, values, actions, of the society they live within. Artists who push boundaries and hold their culture accountable for their actions/policies/hypocrisy provide cover for the people who really don't have a voice or position to do the same.

If artists were just harmless, unemployable eccentrics then totalitarian regimes throughout the world and history would not hunt them down as their first order of buisness - they'd just let them starve.

Just because you may focus on yourself as a subject doesn't mean the effect isn't wider in scope and valuable.

Anonymous said...

It is or can be more than self indulgence, I'm sure!

I saw a Jean Arp abstract from 1915ish and you could say the picture is self indulgent, I suppose, but it is important.

That someone didn't get shot and made this is almost the thing itself. It's us, what makes us different from rabbits, we do these things. That must be important? Someone?

Isn't it more than some shiny luxurious bauble that the Warhol quote on your front page seems to suggest?

hmmmm...I've had too much to think now.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hazel,

Is your work a shiny luxurious bauble?



Paul Martin said...

It'd be nice to use a name - even a pseudonym - to differentiate one Anonymous from another.

Paul said...

Without quoting too much of your post, you've nailed the definition of artist.

"I am trying to reach out and touch, inform, inspire and sometimes, enrage. But I don't expect always to be successful – and if I'm not, I don't really care. I do it because I have to....

I'm an artist. There's simply nothing else I can be."

As the painter Chuck Close said, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."

It is the work, the doing, the reaching, and the aspiring that un-selfindulges us.

Keep it up.

PS. finger in the dyke rocked.

Mr X said...

"It is the work, the doing, the reaching, and the aspiring that un-selfindulges us."

Yeah, but if it's just a pretty picture for the middle class bo-ho types to put on their wall, then isn't it then a complete self indulgent luxury item?

Paul Martin said...

X, I don't know what bo-ho means, but it's of no consequence who purchases a piece. Does it matter? Do you care who pays you at the end of the week, or do you simply care that you've been paid?

If I were an artist, I think I'd prefer that my art was being appreciated, but I'd also like to pay for my materials and living expenses.

Charlie said...

Paul, bo-ho is an abbreviation of bohemian. It's slang, mostly used in the context of style or fashion.

TET (David) said...

Paul said... As the painter Chuck Close said, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."

Yes but Chuck is a human inkjet printer with an endless supply of photos to reinterpret.

Art for the artist is by its very nature self indulgent. The artist creates work that interests them first or expresses something that they want to express - regardless of if they wait for inspiration or push themselves to say something/anything just to keep working.

How a complete artwork is received by the buyers/public etc. is largely out of the artist's hands.

Generally artists don't set out to create work that will be seen as important and vital... they just set out to create because that's what they need to do.

Paul said...

@ TET My point with Chuck's quote was irrespective of who he is or how he works. Rather it is an observation of what I call "working artists". People trying to make a living, ie. get paid, making art. You, me, Hazel and the others of our ilk.
I have so many sketches, notes, and preliminary studies(I imagine you do as well) that if I didn't record another idea for 5 years I'd still have things to do.
And therefore 'we' don't need to be inspired, as in waiting for the bolt to strike, the Muse to tickle our ear, or thigh, or the heavens to open for us. Just hand me the screwdriver.

Mr X said...

Seems a bit of a dull idea of an artist, work as usual, pass me the screwdriver.

Is there someone out there puting their blood and guts and smashed sanity into it, living the wild person of tortured genius lifestyle?

It also seems weird that a lot of you concur that the 'importance' is tacked on later with no help from the artist who made the thing in the first place.

To finish with a R Crumb quote...

" 'Art' is just a racket, a HOAX perpetrated by so called 'artists' who set themselves on a pedestal, and by decadent ivory towered 'critics' who think the world owes them a living!" " The best art is done by amateurs".

Even Hazel I think acknowledges that a lot of it is a scam in her blog.

Paul Martin said...

Of course art is a racket, and this blog has criticised it many times. Everything can be a racket.

TET (David) said...

@Paul, Yes I do have a backlog of ideas, sketches etc. but often it's like watching cable TV... hundreds of channels but still nothing worth watching.

Creating art is like mining for gold. It's really exciting until the gold runs out. Then you have to get to work looking again. Looking for inspiration is a big part of what artists do. Finding inspiration is part of the 'work' whether amateur or professional.

How fast you burn through your ideas depends on how fast you work. I'm pretty sure Chuck gets plenty of time to think about what his next work will be whilst working on his current painting. Me on the other hand... I work a bit faster than Chuck.

@Mr X, an artist can set out to make an important work but whether it becomes 'important' is really out of the artist's hands. Is Hazel's artwork important and if so, is it important because Hazel says it is or is it important because of who buys it, the publicity it receives etc. etc. ?

What exactly determines the 'importance' of an artwork?

Crumb is partly right but that doesn't stop him from benefiting from the same system he is criticizing.

Paul said...

@ Mr. X - The old "smashed sanity ..., living the wild person of tortured genius lifestyle" is way overrated, probably even wrong. An artist isn't great because they're 'crazy'. That idea is actually an attack on artists.
Utrillo was not great because he was alcoholic, Van Gough was not great because he was epileptic, Dali was not great because he was a repressed Catholic, Michaelangelo was not great because he was homosexual. An artist is great because he/she/they make great ART.

And of course the work is important to the artist, otherwise why spend the time on it, but just because the artist says so doesn't make it. It is the 'contribution' of the audience that gives importance.

Thanks Hazel for letting us 'self indulge' ourselves a bit here.

Mr X said...

Sorry Paul, just reading Bacon's life and he seems very much the wild man. The life seems as shocking as there art.

But some artists cultivate the idea of the wild genius? The Romantics? no?

Latifah Shay said...

Isn't it possible that Hazel is making the world a better place by following her dreams? If everyone really followed their true calling, I dare say there would be a lot less crime, etc. and a lot more love. There would be a lot more satisfaction in the world in general. And think of all the people that look up to Hazel for doing what she believes in and for being successful at it. However, as artists we express what many people cannot express for themselves. Therefore allowing those people/their feelings validation and support, sometimes creating a vehicle for someone to feel belonging, or a part of something greater than one's self. Art is very holy and spiritual in and of it's self; it takes courage to be an artist.

Kirsty Hall said...

Mr X said...

"Seems a bit of a dull idea of an artist, work as usual, pass me the screwdriver."

Artists are NOT here to entertain you with their wild bohemian lifestyles, they are here to make their damn work.

Maybe that's boring to you maybe, but if they've got any sense artists pick a process that they love to do so it's not boring to them. How do you think art happens? The art fairy doesn't deliver it, you know, the artist puts the bloody hours in.

"Is there someone out there puting their blood and guts and smashed sanity into it, living the wild person of tortured genius lifestyle?

Oh sure. And half the time they blow their brains out or die of heroin overdoses. All very romantic, I'm sure but piss all use as a long-term artistic model to most artists.