On the relationship between risky artwork and risky lives.
An artist friend and I were recently talking about risk-taking in our work, and we stumbled upon an interesting correlation. Both of us make work that is rather risky. We thrive on the high-stakes of making challenging art.
Yet neither of us are very comfortable taking big risks in our personal lives. We don’t sell off the family farm and move to an island in the Pacific; we don’t forfeit our rent money to buy a painting that we can’t live without; we don’t even like to go without health insurance for long periods of time.
Yet we know plenty of artists who play it safe as the suburbs in their artwork, and who live bohemian personal lives, couch-surfing with friends in New York City, traveling to Europe with a nearly maxed-out credit card and no liquid assets, and picking up the tab even when they have no cash for groceries.
My friend and I agreed that, for us, there’s a measure of security in our own lives that actually allows us to take greater risks in our work, and because the nature of our work is so risky, there is less of a need for risk-taking in other parts of our lives.
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Last night, Ms. Jen and I picked up a variation of this conversation regarding advertising. We noted that ads these days seem riskier than they’ve ever been, taking huge connotative leaps away from the actual product and pushing the association into newer, more exciting directions that are only tangentally related. See VW’s new Golf ad for an example of this in action.
Why is it, we wondered, that the best commercial art is taking bigger risks than the same-old safe stuff you see on many a gallery wall these days. Is it easier for commercial artists to take risks because risk-taking is recognized in the marketplace as the only safe bet? Is there a climate in the art world that discourages real risk-taking? Is there a correlation between taking risks in artwork versus taking risks in real life?