I have been bike riding to the local library with my daughter several days this week. She to the costume design and drawing books. Me to the painters. I don’t think my research is healthy. I pick a painter that I feel my limitations could compare to, yet after skimming through a few pages, I am usually unseated from the lounge chair in awe and wonder. The 20th century moderns are all following a pattern. Most of their younger work is highly skilled in constipated rendering. Then, maybe a several year phase in abstract, mixed in with a looser expressionism. And finally, freedom and joy, perhaps even so confident as to present a colored cartoon at the salon. Some influential photographer is there to help the painter make history. Often with another famous artist(s) beside him, both photographed in three-piece suits, smoking cigarettes.
What the majority of these celebrity painters share in common, post-van Gogh, is recognition in youth and geography. The former fueled their next painting. Encouragement (plus food and raiment) kept the painter painting, and not seeking an alternative career in furniture sales. The latter was (is) all about being in the right place at the right time, usually a big city that “makes” the artist. Which is all too human, similar to the abstract growth of institutions like religion and federal buildings. None of the established modern greats have painted in the middle of nowhere anonymously. Some lucky outsiders get recognition in very old age, or more likely after death, to the joys of posterity. But the overall pattern is this: young painter in big city winning critical praise with inspired work, getting paid in actual money or status, and enjoying self pride and encouragement unto the next studio work. It’s what I call the Bob Dylan of success as an artist paradigm. Without early Greenwich Village accolades, Bob would have packed his dufflebag and got on a Greyhound back to Hibbing. Maybe, if brave, he would have stayed in New York to work a job in the service industry, and while young, continue to search for that “big break”. Eventually, after repeated failure, he would settle in with a girl, find more secure employment, get married, go suburb, raise children, etc. However, he won New York status while very young, was fueled exponentially thereafter, and like all lifelong successful 20th century artists, was promoted. Of course Dylan worked very hard each day to create beautiful stuff shared with an earth of eager human admirers. But without initial success and popular geography, no promoter (Columbia Records) would risk the investment.
Now pride dictates to me the painter that I shun the parties and the “glittering prizes” that the Stuckists are wont to do. That is just financial failure speaking in its best cognitive dissonance accent. I will never become the tiniest fraction of success of brand Bob Dylan, who, now in his wiser old age, probably would also yearn for the wisdom of obscurity. But as a young man, Dylan was an eager, very talented, lowly prostitute working the New York streets and clubs, and not much more. The band wagon picked him up, and he couldn’t stop. Compare the Bob Dylan story to all famous 20th century painters in their more humble, varying degrees of celebrity. I would argue that the similarities are too real to ignore.
So, finally, in desperation, Throop calls out to potential star-makers of the Internet. Partake in the first auction to undermine the archaic 20th century law of financial stability for artists. Buy inspired art that cannot carry the blue-ribbon of critical praise and big city geography. Not the painting above, but a better one, here. I suggest you bid low.