Rachel Rushing

©Byron, Library of Congress

Prior to modern art it was the norm for artists to be commissioned for their talents and duly paid for services rendered. The artist had a regular, albeit small, function in the economy as a service provider and a producer of quality goods. Once modern art struck, the Idea was considered the product rather than what was physically produced or experienced, and that made it a bit difficult to gauge the value of art. Since that time, the Art World has redefined what the success and accomplishment means for this generation of artists, but I think they’ve done a poor job of it, so far.

I’m speaking specifically to the prolific Suffering Artist.  Victimization of the Artist, by fellow artists, has lasting consequences that affect ourselves, artists coming into the scene after us and the world’s ability to approach our work from a place of equality, rather than guilt. We’ve become bitter fear-mongers, and we’ve blamed the rest of the world for our problems. I’m sure this stigma has been around far longer than I can comprehend, but it has become a crutch for the industry; it’s a poor excuse to keep wages down (and labor up) while giving artists a false sense of accomplishment because they have ‘suffered for their art’.

Patting ourselves on the back for suffering through our work encourages the paradigms that put us down in the first place. Not only that, but the idea that an artist is noteworthy only after struggle and hardship devalues any artist that did not have to struggle through poverty or racism, sexism or any other kind of “ism”.

We cannot rightfully expect anyone outside the art world to take us seriously or pay us any sort of fair compensation when we don’t take each other seriously or pay each other what we deserve. An attitude change is overdue. The need for competition is short-sighted and short-lived, and leads to bitterness and paranoia. If we can change our perspective as artists from one of competition and isolation to one of community and betterment of our respective crafts, it would yield a refreshing sense of humility and overall quality in everyone’s work.