“Carter Gillies: The World’s Greatest Living Artist!”

(JUST KIDDING! Of course I’m only joking! This is just a post about artists hyping themselves or having a ‘pimp’ of some sort do it for them. Its also about why if you are an artist who is an introvert you may not be very excited by the Art Game. And just possibly, if you think about it, you may consider turning your creative talents to making this part of the world a bit different than it is. At this point its just a theory. Its just speculation. Its just like that idea in an artist’s mind that awaits execution. The world does not change all on its own. It manifests ideas that are put into practice. See for yourself…..)

Michael Kline has just posted about a service being offered to artist types that puts a professional writer/publicist at the helm for things like “an editor for your artist statement, or someone to write brilliant copy for web site content or press releases”. Sounds like a great opportunity for artists who through lack of time, lack of ability, or lack of desire to get on the podium and sell themselves can not seem to pull it off on their own. Now they can hire out those duties to a specialist!

Maybe this is the introvert’s dream come true! A new alternative to swimming in the high gloss stream. Our answer to having to dive into the mosh pit ourselves. Maybe we can just hire out all the distasteful trumpeting to a stand-in. Maybe we can even hire someone to represent us at our gallery openings: “Hi! I’m the artist’s surrogate at this event, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about my client’s work. I just feel so honored to be working for one of the top professionals in this field, and you’d be crazy not to invest in some of this work. This gallery is so lucky to be showing the work, because in another year or so you won’t be able to find it outside the top list of high end galleries selling only to the most exclusive clients. Buy now while its still barely affordable!”

I know that’s what I sometimes want! Someone who can brazenly paint the brightest picture possible without a shred of humility (unless humility is called for, and then can soft-sell with abject modesty). Let me stay at home in my studio making more work, absorbed in my creative solitude. Let the extroverts take care of the marketplace jungle. I guess we’re just lucky its only a mild version of the buy/sell commotion of Wall Street…..

(Here’s Robert Downey jr. to give you his impressions. Beware a bit of profanity.)

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Pretty ugly, right? And this, somehow, is our society’s ideal for its capitalist mission. And when artists play the Art Game are we really that different? Tell me its not true!

Well, I’m certainly not calling out artists as much as I’m pointing blame at the system. Hard work and quality output sometimes ARE rewarded, so its not a crime to play the game well. Successful artists haven’t done something wrong. They are not the next Bernie Madoff. Its not just a one sided story….

But isn’t it kind of obvious that an artist/introvert sometimes also needs to sell themselves? Isn’t it obvious that some parts of society just demand certain extrovert skills, with the expectation that if you are going to make any headway in the glittery stream you will need to ‘make a name’ for yourself? And when every other artist is in the same position, it is sometimes less about the work you did and more about getting the right amount of attention from the right people. So it might just be necessary to amplify an introvert’s quiet mumble, and it might just be necessary to hire that duty out…..

But is this the game we really want to be playing? When its almost more important to sell ourselves than let the work speak for itself is this the reality we desire? (That IS a question, after all) Is it right that the ones shouting the loudest and most often will be the ones who are best heard? Like some infant chick in a bird’s nest fighting for the worm? Is our new mantra to be the squeakiest wheel possible?

Perhaps this is just Darwinism in action. If its more about positioning and product placement aren’t we right to jostle the quiet ones out of the way? Isn’t it just tough luck for the chicks not shouting as loud? If the survival skill is talking it up, then some quieter folks just fail. They were obviously not cut out for the mad scramble to the top….

But is this the way we want things to be? Are we at all saddened by all the high quality wallflowers who are mercilessly pushed out of the nest? Is society right to cast them off as inferior and quite possibly socially ‘diseased’? Or did they just not have what it takes? Isn’t their introverted disinclination a stumbling block that is rightly punished? Isn’t this simply the way of the world? Suck it up and play, or lose….

And when reputation often speaks louder than actions are we not simply doing the practical thing to enhance our image? Sometimes the hard part is establishing your ‘brand’, but once its in place folks can kind of ignore what you actually do. Not that you can afford to slack off, but the work will sometimes be seen more by the name it represents than anything else (We exclaim, “Ohh! A Picasso!”, not whether we think its any good).

We are impressed by reputation. Its a seal of approval. And are we not right to surround ourselves only with the biggest names of already established spotlight dwellers than to offer a hands up to some anonymous introvert? When just desserts are who asked loudest, the ones whose names shine brightest are always the preferred option….

But is it really the job of an artist to turn so much attention to the inflation of a public reputation? Are we simply best served by an astoundingly puffed up ego*? And if this is just the way things work do we really have any choice? Are we not right to hype when hype is called for? These are the ‘rules’ of the game, and the status quo is always much easier to accept than radical change. Are we not simply better served by not rocking the boat and by giving in to inertia?

So again, the question is whether just because our society at this point in time IS dominated by extrovert expectations is it RIGHT for things to be this way? Just because it IS this way OUGHT it to be this way? And if not, what are we going to do about it? Play catch up with the extroverts? Get pushed into the corners by the loudest shouters. Trampled under foot by the rush to the podium?

Just how can we make the world different? Isn’t this what artists are so good at? Imagining the world the way it SHOULD BE? Isn’t all creativity a shout for change, for the possibility of something new? So what’s our next step? Do we just sit back complacently and take it as society roughs us up a bit? Enjoy the gravy train while were on it? Or do we learn to stand up for different ideals?

Maybe this is too hard a question……

But life is full of inequity. And sometimes folks can stand up without needing to shout. Rosa Parks and Gandhi knew all about this quiet power. I wonder who else knows it?

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What do YOU think?

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* For an interesting discussion I just found on “ego depletion” check out the quotes and the link in the comment section. The studies seem to find that there are deeper consequences to the popularity game than just incidental winners and losers.

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
This entry was posted in Art, Arts advocacy, Arts education, Beauty, Ceramics, Clay, Creativity, Pottery, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “Carter Gillies: The World’s Greatest Living Artist!”

  1. This is from a post on “ego depletetion” from one of my favorite blogs You Are Not So Smart:

    “Inhibiting and redirecting your own behavior in any way makes it more difficult to delay gratification and persevere in the face of adversity or boredom in the future.

    “So, why is it then that the students hit by the rejection bus, the ones told that no one picked them… couldn’t keep the cookies out of their mouths? It seems as though ego depletion can go both ways. Getting along with others requires effort, and thus much of what we call prosocial behavior involves the sort of things that deplete the ego. The results of the social exclusion study suggest that when you’ve been rejected by society it’s as if somewhere deep inside you ask, “Why keep regulating my behavior if no one cares what I do?””

    (….)

    “Why did the rejected group feel motivated to keep mushing cookies into their sad faces? Why is it, as explained by the scientists in this study, that social exclusion impairs self-regulation? The answer has to do with something psychologists now call ego depletion, and you would be surprised to learn how many things can cause it, how often you feel it, and how much in life depends on it.”

    That’s just a small sampling from a fascinating study….

  2. Carter,
    Your introvert/extrovert thread and how it relates to our success or failure as artists is brilliant. Blowing my own trumpet was not part of my BFA degree training, but it was more of a survival instinct. Thanks for the insights.

    Keep on!

    • Ahoy MK!

      Thanks for the props! I for one am sure glad you had the necessary instincts to eventually wander on down to Athens GA and perform your splendid workshop all those many years ago! It was great to meet you then, and I have so enjoyed getting back in touch these last few years. And I’m so glad you are back blogging too! That little hiatus you took was perilous seas for those of us in need of some Klineola magic!

      Thanks as always for the inspiration, and for just being you.

      Keepin’ on at the Gillies homestead!

      Happy potting to you!

  3. John Bauman says:

    My publicist told me to tell you that your blog post was okay.

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