Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm fascinated by the role artists play in our civilization, how we are perceived, and the function we serve in society. I majored in anthropology for a reason, and these are the things I think about when I'm not thinking about pottery. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've already read me getting up on my soapbox about how the culture worships the artist as an almost supernatural being, yet is always looking for an excuse to knock us down. Also-- and this is a side note-- we are expected to work only for the love of our art, not for money. How many fucking letters do I get from organizations totally unknown to me, asking me to donate my work? Per ca pita dollars, more than Donald Trump gets, I promise you that. Artists are seen as especially gifted. Yet we are also generally seen as tortured, ego maniacal, and crazy, just to name a few things that actually apply to me.

I got going on these thoughts again today because I've been regularly checking in on this blog called The Happiness Project. It's a blog dedicated to test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study done on creating more happiness in our overindulged and spoiled western lifestyle, where stores dedicated to selling $78 scented candles abound, but happiness does not. I find this site appealing because what it really seems to be about is leading more balanced and thoughtful life. And I'm interested in how this gimmicky website can actually educate people about leading a more meaningful existence, if not necessarily a more happy one. There was a post the other day titled Are Artists Unhappier than Non-Artists? Of course I had to dive right into that one, because it feeds all of my angst about society's stupid ideas about artists. My observation has been that artists are no more happy or unhappy than the culture at large. I think there is a general desire to have a romantic vision of the artist as tortured and neurotic to balance out the fact that we are supremely gifted. I personally think this vision is ultimately undermining to the artist, and encourages a lot of unfortunate behavior at art schools. But it also helps maintain the artist status as an exalted outsider, which is maybe what we need to get people to leave us alone so we can do our work. "I can't do the dishes right now, I'm having a break down. Now get outta my studio!"

I know that I am there is not an unhappier person on the planet than an artist who is not-- or can't -- make work. But unhappy just because we're artists? I don't think so. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert touches on a lot of these points in the talk I posted below. Please watch.