Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What kind of artist am I?

Me, at right, deliberating. **
At the beginning of this month, I participated in a panel discussion on Provisional painting.  At the start, I was introduced as a curator and founder of GroundSwell Gallery and as a conceptual artist.  Albeit the moderator did hesitate around the term "conceptual," I found myself befuddled as my mind tried to respond to the larger issue: What kind of artist I am.

This is a familiar topic for me nonetheless.  Most people, upon discovering that I am an artist, ask me, What kind of artist?  Am I a painter?  Or... ?  Most people who are outside of the art community immediately wonder if I am a painter.  I'm amused by this initial thought: Artist = Painter.  I imagine this is a result of one's art education only reaching the middle school level, so familiarity with artists ranged from Monet to Picasso to Pollack to Warhol (MAYBE Warhol).  All painters.

Anyway, my response is usually that yes, I do paintings sometimes, but my art making and media choices are a result of an initial inspiration.  I usually have a vision that relates to philosophy or a personal discovery and that vision leads to a media choice that makes sense.  I just follow my intuition in answering the question, "How can I realize this vision?"  I don't consider myself an expert in any one media, but I do consider myself adept at many media and broadly experienced with various techniques and skill-sets.  Blahdy blahdy blahdy, is this person still listening?  Is what I am saying ringing any bells?  Maybe...  so, sometimes I do paintings.  Sometimes I make sculpture.  I've worked in performance.  I enjoy making large installations, site-specific and otherwise.  Right now, I'm making drawings on paper.  Another aspect of my work is that I tend to work in a very repetitive way.

In the case of the panel discussion, which was also about a vague matter (Provisional painting), I realized I was now talking to a group of people who speak the language of art, of media, of technique and the artist's practice.  These individuals had the background information on the subject and I felt compelled to answer this question more in depth.  However, I was also posed with the categorization of conceptual artist.  I began my response by saying that I had never actually considered myself a conceptual artist, but I could see why she, the moderator, might say so.  My work, being of different media and techniques from project to project, is often linked to a concept, which I describe alongside my work (examples: www.rebeccapeebles.com).  The concept from one project to the next may string along familiar modalities of thinking and working or similar goals despite varied processes toward reaching the goal.  So by the end of my dribbling, befuddled artspeak, I actually said out loud, "Well, maybe you're right.  Maybe I AM a conceptual artist."

No, that's not true.  How bizarre that I walked all around that self-definition-moment undecided, almost desperate to end the tail-spin, and then I just accepted the assumption.  So having given it some thought for a few more weeks, I'll say what I have meant to say for a long time.  I am not a painter.  I am not a sculptor.  I am not an installation artist.  I am not a conceptual artist.  I am not a performance artist.  I am not a print maker.  I am not a textile/fiber artist.  I am not an illustrator.  I wouldn't even call myself an interdisciplinary artist (although that vague term is perhaps the closest fit).

I am an artist.  That is all I am.  I utilize all of who I am and what I know and what I have as I need to.  I make art.
That's enough for me.
I'm certainly not trying to fit into any categories for catalogs or historical documents.  I could care less about my CV or resume.  I even think it's time to re-write my Artist's statement to say less about what kind of artist I am.
There's no reason for me to try to be the right kind of artist or make the kind of art that's popular.  I don't believe in making art for the market or even for an audience - those aims are destructively distracting from my art practice.
I make art for (first) myself and (second) for the love in it and (third) for beauty.

To the moderator of that discussion, thank you for helping me realize who I am not and therefore, who I am... as an artist.

**photo credit - Rebecca Vaughn