This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. A regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, Carolyn’s alter ego, This Woman Writes, publishes lifestyle articles in online and in print newspapers and on her blog site. The co-owner of Steve Henderson Fine Art with her painter husband Steve, Carolyn is the author of Grammar Despair: Quick simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” and the money saving book, Live Happily on Less.
These last two articles, we have been talking about Arrogant Artists, which one finds all over the place from our neighborhood to the international art associations, and how 1) arrogance and confidence are not the same thing and 2) arrogance does not necessarily translate into excellence. While an arrogant artist can be one of the Famous Few because he is, indeed, good, we -- as both members of and consumers in the nebulously indefinable world of art -- can inadvertently and unintentionally promote arrogance by continuing to fund it, one dollar at a time.
You may not realize this, but as a consumer of art products, a participant of shows, a purchaser of magazines, and a follower of famous names, you are an integral part of that nebulously indefinable world of art -- but not considered particularly important by the few who wield the power, prestige, influence, and money. As with any establishment, there are Inner Sanctums, and like most inner sanctums, they are closed to most people, even though there is the outside appearance that anyone -- given enough talent, gumption, and the American Dream -- can make it in.
But you do have something quite important that you do control -- your money -- and it is the one thing about you that matters to the Arrogant Artists at the top of the nebulously indefinable world of art. It is your purchases of their art, their books, their DVDs, their workshops, their magazines, their product lines, that keep them, monetarily, thriving.
Not all of the Famous Few are egotistically conceited -- there are good, humble, confident yet kind people everywhere, and some of them stay this way despite success: these are the ones it is worth supporting because they’re good in two ways -- in what they do, and how they live. Art does not operate within a vacuum, and if we are going to praise a person because of his genius in grasping and representing truth -- which is what art propounds to find -- then the nobler and more honorable his inner being, the more likely he is to truly capture truth in his art.
At some point, and when it goes on long enough, arrogance chips away at truth, and what is left -- the artist’s creation -- is a brittle shell giving the illusion of truth. Do you want to learn from a person like this?
And quite honestly, when an artist is so impressed by his ability to do what he does -- how likely is it that he will teach you to know what he knows? Arrogant people aren’t dumb.
Through the years, as I have written this column, I have “met” many of you through your comments and observations: you are good, honest, humble, kind people, some of whom lack confidence because you look at the nebulously indefinable world of art and feel that you must not be good, or you would be featured in a magazine, or the prize winner in a major show, or sought after by the tippy top galleries, or promoted and showered with accolades in the way that you see being done with others.
You may or may not be really good -- it should be your primary goal that you are -- but recognize that, in the nebulously indefinable world of art, not all of the top players are good. Premium level marketing and sterling connections are invaluable assets that you may not have.
But again, what you do have is your checkbook, or your debit card, or your fistful of cash, and you can choose to support good artists who are good people. What we fund is what we get more of, and what I would like to see more of are good people, with open minds and a willingness to help and encourage others, producing top quality products in their area of expertise.
Support these people. As for the others -- the ones who are excellent yet arrogant -- think twice, thrice, four times before continuing to fund that arrogance. Instead, invest your time, money, and attention on someone who is excellent yet kind, which could very well be you, by the way.