Is the artists image just as important as the work he or she creates?
We all know of the image of the eccentric, lunatic, or brooding artist. These stereotypes are made popular in film and novels. My question is, does it pay to have a persona or to be who you are? Is your personality included in the package when you sell a piece? I've asked myself these questions before, but a recent exhibit made them fresh in my mind.
I met a painter during a large group exhibit I attended recently. I noticed her the second I entered the large exhibit room. She was talking with a group of patrons who had crowded around her work. Other artists who were exhibiting with her seemed to be shadowed by the chaotic light that sprang from the energy of her performance. Was she faking? Was it all an act? Was this real? I felt compelled to observe her display.
Her eyes seemed to be wide and wild while she laughed loudly at practically everything that was said to her by her viewers. Some of them returned her gestures while others seemed to be startled. The only pause in communication came in the form of a shy curator bumping through the crowd in order to place red stickers near the paintings that were sold. During this entire process curious observers, such as myself, remained in the artists presence. She held her audience.
This went on for over twenty minutes from the time I had entered the gallery. This artist had captivated her audience by her wild charm, eccentric nature, and provocative choice of discussion. She did all of this while making sudden movements that made her appear to have some sort of affliction. This display, along with her bright red dress, seemed to be a focal point for everyone who entered the building.
Eventually I broke from the crowd in order to observe the work of the other exhibiting artists. The rest of the exhibit seemed 'dead' compared to the area where the 'crazy woman in the bright red dress' (As one person defined her.) was still putting on an exhibit of her own. The other artists had not sold any paintings!
The other artists stood around as if they were bored or angry. A few of them ate snacks while discussing studio space and the price of materials. It was at this point that I started to ask myself about how the personality of the artist correlates with the sell of work. Do viewers expect to see a 'show of personality' along with the show of work? Did ranting and raving help the woman in red to sell her art? A number of questions popped into my mind.
The others did seem rather dull when compared to her. Most of them did not attempt to approach anyone who walked near their paintings. The few that did passed out 'business cards' instead of actually talking about their art. A livewire personality seemed to do more for the woman in red than 100 business cards could ever do.
What puzzled me the most was the fact that the woman in the red dress was not the most skilled artist present nor was she the most known. There were other artists there who had already made names for themselves in the community. Not only were they far more skilled than the woman in red, but they also had established buyers. However, their patrons flocked toward the woman in the red dress while they stood with their arms crossed.
I stood outside after the exhibit had closed with a few of my art-related friends. We discussed various art topics. The woman in red left the gallery as my friends and I conversed. She came up and listened to us for several minutes. The wild spark of personality that she had displayed during gallery hours seemed to have left her.
She did not seem to speak in the same tone. In fact, her behavior was the complete opposite of how she had been during the exhibit. She was no longer wild and loud. Instead, she seemed shy. She hardly spoke a word and her actions were very reserved.
I noticed that there were a number of discarded artist business cards on the ground as the woman in the red dress walked away. Maybe those artists should rely on their force of personality (or invent one) rather than relying on tiny slips of paper to sell their art.
Do you think this artist was putting on a 'show' in order to attract potential buyers? After all, she no longer made the sudden movements or wild open stares when she talked to me outside of the exhibit. Would the other artists had sold more if they had used a 'persona' as well (If indeed she was putting on some form of act)?
How common do you think this practice is? Can you think of any well-known artists who are 'not what they seem'? Have you observed similar situations personally? Do you roleplay during your exhibits? Do you think some of the more famous artists may have put on 'fronts' as well? Does it matter? Is it just part of the creative process? Should we expect our personality and art to be sold as a combined package? Discuss.
Take care, Stay true,