Art and Community / Art-Making and Culture / On Accounts of Art-Making

On Letters to Some Young Artists (in Newburgh)


Young artists, you don’t need to get your name out “there”; just make the best work you can make. Out “there” doesn’t exist in a way meaningful enough that you’d do, make, anything but the very best you can. Don’t schmooze and mingle, and don’t be a charlatan. No one cares enough about your art that any of that might matter. Schmoozing won’t help anyone care about your art.

However, someone might care about your art because they liked whatever they liked about it. Perhaps your manic, intense, intensely wrought line-work, the historical attention you bring to a piece, say; perhaps that you paint like you couldn’t care less, and that’s what works. Chances are, though, you don’t know why your work works when it does, for whomever it does. You can’t charlatan your way into that. Just make good work, and fingers crossed things will work out. And things will work out either because 1. your work will take off and people will cheer you on, or, 2. you’ll get used to disappointments, and not getting your way, and– here’s my hope– you’ll continue making work anyway.

After all, it’s just art. Better that you were a non-charlatan human being who made art. No sense in losing your heart and mind in the service of someone else’s machinations.

Also, don’t make work in the service of the Newburgh Land Bank: those folks are using your work to sell back beat down houses now on their tax rolls, and they want to sell it off to a rich Brooklynite whose purchase of this one house or another is going to be used to pay down the city’s tax/debt burden, and eventually that money will get paid back to the state, but not–and I’m sure of this–without some real estate (ad)venture(r) getting a cut of something. All you’re doing is beautifying devastation and ruin. That’s not helpful.

Don’t let your art work be the pound of flesh you pay in compensation for shilling shit.

Just make the best work you can make.

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