WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
I attended an opening at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art on Friday night. I was on the way back from spending a few days with my mom and my sister and her family. At the opening, I was talking to a few people who were familiar with my work. They said that they liked my work very much and were really excited for the exhibit in January. They, however, expressed mild concern about how my work was going to be received in San Luis Obispo, which they say is a fairly conservative town.
I have not thought about this once, until they brought it up the other night. My work is a bit dark, mysterious, brooding and moody. I do, however, think it is beautiful, albeit, in a dark sort of way. I happen to think that my work will be very well received in SLO. And if it isn't, I hope that people will at least go and see it, and come away with something, good or bad.
But this conversation got me thinking, "Who is my audience?"
I have always considered myself to be the ultimate audience for my own work. I have always tried to create my work for me, first and foremost. I can only hope that others will find some meaning, interest and enjoyment after confronting my images.
Who is the audience for your work?
I do think that this can be a dangerous question. It does, however, deserve to be contemplated and it deserves an answer. Be careful about your answer, though. It could have serious consequences for you. The answer could mess with your mind. It could influence what you choose to paint or how you choose to paint it. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing. Be wary of external motivation: acceptance by others, recognition, fame, sales, etc. These are not necessarily bad things, However, if they are the only things, then you may be in for some frustration and unhappiness. I feel that a healthy balance of internal and external motivation is best.
I have told this story before, but in this case, I think it bears repeating. Many years ago, at the opening of my very first solo show, I was talking to a woman. I was expressing my concern that people did not seem to be responding to my work in a favorable way. She said to me, in so many words, "You keep making the kind of work you want or need to make and let the rest of us catch up." What an amazing and beautiful thing to say to a young artist. I have never forgotten what she told me that night. The next day I found out that she had purchased one of my pieces.
There is no right or wrong answer here. However, I do think it is an important question to ask ourselves. Whatever your answer is, stick by it with conviction. Stay true to yourself. Create work that you love to make and are proud of. Stand by your work. Do not make apologies or excuses for it.
If you create work that you absolutely love then others will too.
I would love to hear your your answer to, "Who is your audience?"
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