Art and Cliques

As an artist, one of the things that bothers me the most is the clique. In my mind, there is no place in a healthy art environment for cliques. They stifle creativity, at the least; at their worst, cliques drive new artists away from art. That’s not right. There is room for all in the art world, in my mind. Also, new artists, watch out for this phrase, this particular phrase is used to deliver meanness on toast with a pat of sadism on the side, “I don’t mean to be rude….” or “I don’t mean to sound mean…”. Yes, they do mean to be rude, and yes, they do mean to be mean. What a person says is as important as how they say it. Those people are the ones a new artist should run away from. Find a group, they are out there, where the group is friendly and the people are not re-enacting the movie, “Mean Girls” in order to be popular.

Most of the folks who do that are legends in their own mind, and that’s a problem. I also think the clique gives a sense of exclusiveness that keeps others out, whether that clique is in the local art scene, and in Portland, OR there is a very strong clique culture. We also have a fairly stagnant gallery scene, which I also blame on the art dealer’s clique.

To be fresh and exciting has nothing to do with age. I’ve seen some really terrible art done by young artists; I’ve seen some new, exciting work done by those approaching the elderly years. I also have seen this art ignored by curators, solely because the artist was not part of the clique, no matter the age. That does a disservice to all artists, in my opinion.

The other part of a clique is the stagnation of the artists in that clique. If one will not hear criticism, and I don’t mean cutting stuff, just the actual critique, of a piece, then one cannot grow as an artist. Part of being an artist is the struggle with our mediums, with our concept, with our process. If it comes too easy, it probably needs refinement. In cliques, one does not get a good critique, one gets a rubber stamp, even if it is not working!

This does not allow an artist to grow, this does not allow the work to grow, this makes the artist glow on a short term basis, but does not encourage growth. If we are not trying to grow as artists, that’s great. If one wants to be on the same level forever, then yes, by all means, do stick with that clique, but if one is looking to become a great artist, instead of just a good one, then cliques are not the way to go. Cliques are the junior high school mentality, in my experience. One of the reasons I do not like them, no way, no how!

The other problem with ’em, artists from cliques flood the market, causing people’s eyes to glaze over at the sight of the prevailing clique’s art, which can carry over into the viewing of other people’s art. Not good, says I! There should be more than one style, more than one genre, that we do as artists. I have to say, if one is only doing it for the money, then I don’t see that as art, really, just as product. Nothing wrong with that, just don’t call it art in my opinion.

If one is in a clique, it’s time to leave that comfort zone. If one truly wants to grow as an artist, one’s thinking must be challenged. Art is a constant process; a dynamic process, a process that is more than the materials we use, it is also the people we surround ourselves with, it is also the places we want to show, and the people we want to impress.

Find a good group that will actually give you a critique. I belong to private online group that gives excellent critiques. They give a valid, objective flow of needed information to help my art be the best that it can be. I find them to be invaluable! Not just for the critique, but because they are also open to new art, to new ideas and all of us are constantly pushing our boundaries in our quest to become better artists. That group is what a group should be; supportive but honest in that support. Honest, with out meanness. Now THAT is a good group to belong to. They are out there. One just has to look for them.

Facebook, Yahoo, Meetup, there are many groups, just Google the media you work in, and voila!  you have a priceless source for free, to help in one’s growth.

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