The Weird World of the Artist

Posted by Gregory Johnson on

Every now and then, most artists arrive at a crossroads. Some more often than others. It usually involves thoughts along the lines of "Why do I do this?" I mean really, it's a good question. Sooner or later, we arrive at the conclusion that we do this because we love it. But, is that really the reason? Or just part of it?

What purpose do artists fulfill? In my case, as in many artists that prefer to take chances at the risk of being revealed as a weirdo, I tell myself that I want to touch people of like minds as a kind of communion of souls. And that is definitely part of it. But we must ask ourselves deeper questions. Can we handle the realization that we could end up failing? Is the art we produce from an objective viewpoint just shit? (We ask that ALL THE TIME.) Why are we constantly drawn to create?

I'm reminded of the cave paintings in France created by early Homo Sapiens, thousands of years ago. Why did they do that? I've got a pretty good idea. I'll bet there had been a good hunt and everyone's belly was full. Maybe no sabre-toothed tiger had been spotted lately. It was a nice quiet night and everyone was laying around feeling safe and satisfied. Then that one guy who seems to stare off into space at times begins to stir. (I say "guy", but it could have just as easily been a female, but I'm a guy, so...). he's noticed the differences in the colors of clay and had been experimenting for some time with color and how to make it last. He's reflected on the day's hunt and drawing on an inner ability to see, begins to draw on the wall. The others in the tribe were probably intrigued and enjoyed his paintings immensely. Maybe he was even held up to a higher position in the tribe because of it. Can you imagine his group gathered around as he created these depictions by firelight, all staring in appreciation and awe? The first television, if you will. There are even hand prints. One hundred thousand year-old hand prints. So after all this time, he touches us.

This has been happening all over the world for thousands and thousands of years. The examples are almost infinite in scope. Some of the most moving and beautiful works have deeply touched us, the definition of "moving" and "beautiful" changing and evolving over the years. But through it all, throughout the course of human time, there has always been that guy, or gal. They have always been here. And I'm here to tell you that the majority of them are not cut from the same cloth as your "normal" homo sapien. There's something different, a deeper inner life, more of a talent for reflection, and more of a talent for self-doubt. Combine this with an innate ability to see, and you've got yourself an artist.

So here we find ourselves, we artists. The friggin' 21st century. Arguably the most confused and fraught time in the history of our species. I can't speak for other artists, but the need to create has been especially acute in me lately. I'm struck by the madness, the hate and ignorance. It seems as if this state of being is in some kind of cosmic loop, that only the names and faces change, as well as the method of distribution. The sabre-toothed tigers have taken on a new persona.

Amid all this, I find myself being called to create. Not only create, but create just exactly what I want, not affected by opinion or popular belief. I see many artists out there doing the same thing. To me, it's like walking around town naked, with only a fig leaf. Hi there, here I am. The attached piece, "Mushroom Cloud", is an example of this. I had a viewer, whose opinion I respect, call it "disturbing". I was happy to hear that, and told her so. We need to be disturbed by art. The result of that, of course, is something along the lines of "what's WITH this guy?" What, indeed. When I am deeply troubled, I make art. When I'm joyful, I make art. When I see madness, I make art. When I'm enraged, I make art. Or to be more precise, art makes me.

There is a fascinating trend right now in which many more people are reaching inside themselves, beginning to see their infinite potential, just as the world is approaching a new brink. We need to understand ourselves, and in so doing, understand others. This is what art, real art, is intended to do. Everybody loves a nice landscape, but I'm not here for that. My art is not intended for decor over your sofa, but it IS intended to touch the viewer as deeply as possible. And in this lies the rub. How to do that. How do we share our weirdness. How do we share our love of a different kind of beauty. When I find myself in those moments of doubt, I think of Vincent Van Gogh. He knew how to paint a landscape. His painting, "Starry Night", is all I need to understand the role of the true artist. In his lifetime, he sold 2 paintings. Did that make his work shit? I think not. All that was needed was a different perspective.

When my wife took a friend of hers to see my solo show she remarked, "You're MARRIED to this guy?"

I could only laugh.

See excerpts of my recently closed solo show on my instagram account: @gregoryalanart

To get to know this weirdo a little better, see my interview on the podcast "PT Pop":



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