There's a post up this morning at Elizabeth Bear's LJ on the responsibility of the artist to Art
that ties in interesting ways to some of the stuff I've been thinking about lately, on my own writing and why I write and how it's changed over time. (Also to the Patricia Wrede discussion, and this post on art vs. humanity
, which I agree with 110%.) In fact, Bear's post and her core argument is pretty much a capsule example of Why Layla Dropped Out Of Art School. It was to get away from people who thought like that.
... Okay, that's not entirely fair. But when I read that post, my knee-jerk reaction was, "Oh god, it's like I'm a freshman again!" -- and not in a good way. The thing is, I loved studying art; I loved learning the techniques and studying and riffing off famous artists from the past. What I did not love, and what made me realize (among other things) that art-as-a-career was not for me, was the pretentiousness and self-importance of the fine-art world. I realized that I didn't have much in common with ahteeests whose goal as an artist was to discomfit or disgust or sicken their audience under the guise of Making A Statement.
I recognize that everyone is drawn to art (all sorts of art) for many different reasons. I believe that there is a very valid and necessary place in the world for art that discomfits and disturbs the complacent. But I resented (and still do resent), very deeply, the prevailing sense in the pro art world that this is the best
way to be a "proper" artist. I loathe the pervasive idea that art which is created because it's fun
, or created for the sake of pleasing or entertaining people, is less
in every way, which goes hand-in-hand with the equally loathsome idea that the artist who creates it is not smart enough or artistic enough or brave enough to do real
I hate it because I've spent most of my adult life unlearning that idea and learning not to look down on myself for not
being that kind of artist, even though, tangentially, my art is
about what's important to me, and sometimes does make statements -- it's just that that's not my primary reason for making it.
The bit from Bear's post that really stood out for me:
My job as an artist is not to console you or distract you from the things in the world that make you unhappy. That's my job as an entertainer, and often it's in direct conflict with my job as an artist--but conflict is what makes narratives interesting, so that's okay. My job as an artist is not to give you characters and stories you care about and invest in and want to spend time with. That's my job as a storyteller, which supports and informs my job as an artist.
Yeah, well, I'm primarily a storyteller, and I'm proud of it. It's not that my work is never about
anything -- my original work in particular is very often About Important Stuff. But it's more
importantly about people -- telling their stories, getting invested in their lives, caring about them and making my reader care about them as much as I do. There's definitely a valuable place in fiction for making your reader think (and good fiction does), but I resent the implication that I'm not a proper artist if I'm more interested in telling my readers a proper story than poking them in the eye. And I don't think it would have prickled me so hard in the case of this particular blog post if artistic/creative academia wasn't full
of this attitude (and if this one particular artist hadn't been brought up for failing to recognize her readers as people in the past, too).