I thought I'd write up a little post about how I'm choosing artists for this #deadartistsociety project. I find myself getting defensive when someone comments on my choice, whether it is intended to be supportive or not. This is long overdue, just to clarify my own thoughts and intentions.
Last year I chose all female artists. I specifically set out to do that because I knew very little about female artists (even Frida and Georgia!) and since I am one, I thought I'd change that. I learned a lot. Unfortunately one of the things I quickly learned is that resources are limited and even more so for female artists. I live in a city that has a fantastic library system. Yet there's still not great art books and very few about women artists. The books that are out there are often really expensive, as in hundreds of dollars per book. I prefer to study books rather than solely using the internet, though I do supplement with online resources. Because of this, I found my choices to be narrowed even further. For example, I would have liked to have studied Helen Frankenthaler last year but I never found a comprehensive book that I could afford.
This year I chose to do 'popular' artists. One reason is the resources are much easier to obtain. But also because I don't think we know near as much about them as we think we do. I've challenged myself to find the interesting and unusual. I also challenge myself to teach readers something they didn't already know, even when I'm studying their favorite artist, someone they thought they knew all about.
I am very aware of race, gender, etc. when I choose. I try to choose a variety, not just old white guys. Though I do actually WANT to study some old white guys. For one I'm interested. But also how can I make connections and comparisons if I don't also study them. As Basquiat said "I'm not a black artist. I'm an artist." And so while it's important to me to study everyone and for people see themselves in artists, I also have a geniune interest in Picasso (even if he's a narcissistic old, white dude.)
I've been criticized for 'celebrating' creatives who some consider were not nice people. I don't think studying or quoting or painting something inspired by someone is necessarily celebrating them. And choosing an artist for this project is not necessarily saying I like the artist. Actually I began with Frida because I knew so many people loved her and I really didn't. I wondered what the fuss was all about. I choose artists to learn about them. And remember I'm doing this day by day, you are learning as I'm learning. I don't research an artist beforehand to decide if they'd be a good choice. That would defeat the purpose!
Austin Kleon has this great post about art monsters. He says "Take a quick dip into any one of the hundreds (thousands?) of years of art history and you’ll find that, no, actually, plenty of great art was made by creeps, assholes, vampires, perverts, and worse." And shares this handy chart:
Kleon also says "We’re all complicated. And we’re all creepy, to a certain degree." There is no perfect choice for this project.Any artist is a good choice because the goal is to learn. And I don't know everything about anyone, even the ones I've already studied.