Art worthiness

I think if I could go back in time and give myself a message, it would be to reiterate that my value as an artist doesn’t come from how much I create. I think that mindset is yoked to capitalism. Being an artist is about how and why you touch people’s lives, even if it’s one person. Even if that’s yourself in the process of artmaking.
Amanda Gorman, 2020 U.S. Inaugural Poet

Just yesterday I came across the above quote in which Amanda Gorman expresses in words the feelings I grappled with for decades. Put simply …

What is one’s worth as a person who practices the creative arts?

Self-Portrait, 29 March (II) by Barbara van Buskirk. Color monotype (2010).

Early on, in my 20s, I accepted the lie that developing my creativity was a luxury I could not afford. The cliché as well as the fear of being a starving artist, living in a garret, and being financially dependent on someone other than on myself and my own labor would be more than embarrassing; it would be shameful. 

Last month I finished reading “Vincent van Gogh: A Life in Letters” (edited by Nienke Bakker) which resonated with me in a number of different ways. Van Gogh’s experience working as an artist for the last 10 years of his life made clear to him that the perception of most people as to his worth as a person was contingent not upon his artistic development and talents, but instead upon earning pots of money.

How is it we so often buy into the lie more than 130 years after van Gogh’s passing that one’s worth is black or white. In truth, just as one color can have an almost limitless number of different tones, each person’s worth and life has an infinite number of tones.

What is one’s worth as a person who practices the creative arts? Priceless.

Self-Portrait, 5 April (I) by Barbara van Buskirk. Color monotype (2010).



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