I’ve been rereading Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland (The Image Continuum, 1993), spurred by my own bout of fear as I dive into a project that presents some craft and culture challenges. I was struck by this comment by the authors, both primarily photographers, on finding your place in the art world:
“[T]he unease many artists feel today betrays a lack of fit between the work of their heart and the emotionally remote concerns of curators, publishers and promoters. It’s hart to overstate the magnitude of this problem. Finding your place in the art world is no easy matter, if indeed there is a place for you at all. In fact one of the few sure things about the contemporary art scene is that someone besides you is deciding which art—and which artists—belong in it. It’s been a touch century for modesty, craftsmanship and tenderness.”
They wrote that 30 years ago. Their premise, which I’m paraphrasing, still holds true: We must find the meaning of the work in the work itself and in the working, not in its reception — or ours — in the larger world.