Is an Audience necessary??
A few days ago, I was In the studio struggling with a new painting…. We all know how that goes, right? You’re off to a great start, the idea is solid but your execution… Eh not so much. As my mentor says, “C, you need more hot grits!” In other words, the punch line is missing. The one element needed to finish the piece and bring it all home is missing. Damn that aggravating. I’ve been yelling at people on the bus, flaking out on assignments, and all over a painting!! God Almighty! Oddly enough, this beautiful struggle is what I Iive for. To be even more of a cliche, I live, breathe and eat this $&*+, so when I hit a bump in the road I keep a pushing along.
Being in school, surrounded by other creative people, the urge to ” critique” work is always in the air. A friend once told me ( and I believe this to be true), that everyone wants to be that person to help you break through this rough patch. People walk into your studio, they pop off questions , tell you how much they like it, give you the name of every damn white male artist as some jumping off point and leave probably feeling good about themselves when in actuality…. You are left unfazed and sometimes slightly annoyed. A good rule of thumb, people : sometimes you need to ask before you enter someone’s studio. It is similar to going to someone’s house . You don’t just walk in and proceed to look into their panty drawer! You ask first, ” C, could I go through your underwear drawer??? I admire your love for Victoria’s Secret! ” You get my drift.
But I digress. One of those eager art lovers )that is actively producing work that looks a lot like the work of a deceased white males), came to me the other day and said ” I think you should think about who your audience is, like … Who is your audience??”
And I immediately shot back, “Why do you need to create work for an audience?” In my mind,I also wanted to know why that was recommended to me specifically. Now, before you assume that I am overreacting, I had the same “critique” sometime last year. Who is your audience? Are you saying because I am creating work about otherness that I have to create work for black, brown red, yellow people? Because I am a Black woman, I need to create work that speaks specifically to Black women?? So would you say Barbara Kruger made work for white women? Or Jeff Koons creates work for white men? What about Rashid Johnson or Carrie Mae Weems? Mark Bradford?Ai Wei Wei? So it lead me to thinking: Can you create work without an audience? Can you create work with a specific audience in mind? Or can you just create work aligned with your concept and screw the “audience” bit? Is it possible that you limit yourself by creating work for someone else? Is it not plausible that an audience has jack $&#* to do with the creation of work and your execution is your bread and butter, not necessarily who you think will “like” it? Truthfully, after conversation with artists C.Coleman and art educator C. Esekawu, I now understand why that is a question of sorts… but it’s tricky. The information presented in your artwork, can go over some folks heads. However, I’m not sure you should censor your work for the sake of an “audience”. Or you can create work for a specific audience and take (and accept) the risk of the work never going beyond a specific point.
For me…. I just need more hot grits.