“To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that is very good but that most can’t eat it.” Leo Tolstoy (from Brainyquote)
Does making a living diminish the subject of political statements in artist’s works? Many artists feel very strongly about political causes and seek to project this viewpoint in their art. However, artists also want to make a living doing the work they are passionate about. The difficulty may be in finding a marketable role for an artist’s work while maintaining a passionate direction.
“Visual Arts has a role to play in encouraging us to search through the ‘fragments and bigger pieces’ of our world and to piece them together in ways which allow us to explore, describe, contemplate, manipulate and bring them alive,” writes the author of an article for Artstuff.net. The statement suggests a political motivation is a requirement for art creation. Artists must have a higher purpose in their work to adhere to this role for art in today’s world.
The Art Newspaper, reporting on the Frieze London art fair, makes the following observation: “Reflecting complex social issues, political situations and personal causes is important to many artists, but confrontational works are commercially difficult.” Though the artist’s role is to encourage searching, too much searching may not sell art. While one writer is suggesting art’s role is to prod the viewer into a form of enlightenment, the second writer says that politics does not necessarily sell art.
Artists make art because of an inner force. Success comes from the ability to steer this force into a commercially viable direction followed by aggressive marketing. If the goal is to promote a deeply felt political cause it may be worth contemplating how that can be accomplished in a way more likely to stimulate exploration than as an outright in the face statement. The inner drive may be difficult to steer but worth the effort in the long run if seeking commercial success. Making art edible “to the majority of men,” may mean a little creative adjustment. After all, we all want to be edible.