YOUR ART IS BAD BECAUSE YOU REALLY JUST WANT SEX
Daily, I listen to artists say they are stuck at a place where their bad art is not as successful as they hoped. Sometimes, artists haven’t worked the necessary hours to build skills and there’s a gap between their ideas, taste and ability. They don’t know how to close the gap and balk at “doing the work” given crushing psychological resistance and the impatient vanity of wanting love right now. Sometimes pure labor is not enough. No, you need to change your habitual thinking.
Most artists learned their work habits via institutional training, or mentorship, following teachers, friends and peers to arrive at a unified boringness. If you are making art via the habits that your teacher learned from their grandfather, who got it from Carolus-Duran in 1902, it encourages boring repetition. Teachers know this problem exists. John Baldessari’s prime mandate to students was “Make No More Boring Art,” Baldessari thinks conventional notions of art are as ingrained, passed down, and unquestioned as rules of language. Baldesssari described his conceptual works as “what I thought art should be, not what somebody else would think art would be. You know, received wisdom, what you would get in school. And so a lot of my work was about questioning this received wisdom.”
You might love Baldessari or think his work is junk, but he identifies the problem of the habitual and consensual social nature of art-making. Artists using methods giving poor results nonetheless stick with their bad habits. (My pal Larry is using cadmium yellow, so I must use cadmium yellow. Why? Who knows?) Most art-making is social, not logical. Social is why you see dopey cat art on Facebook and Instagram receive thousands of meaningless likes from friends, family, grandma, etc. Well-documented studies show that artists would rather be part of a social group, even if that group had completely flawed thinking, than work alone at anything new.
Psychologists say that for artists, “even if beliefs have been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs.” This operates both at the skills level and the content level. Sometimes the artist is foiled by poor skills, sometimes by poor content ideas. Defensively, the artist rationalizes their fumbling work is misunderstood “like Van Gogh” or they don’t have the magically influential gallery to sell their train-wreckage. What is more rare is to see an artist, stuck, admit the problem exists and decide to change course in their art-making practice. This is available to anyone who can be honest about their situation.
First, admit that being a part of the social group is more desirable than any logical reality (i.e. your art actually stinks.) Belonging to the pack allows interaction with other humans. Evolutionarily, this is more important: because if you are not part of the congregation and can’t have sex, your genes die off. Hence, we see that the real reason for making art — for 99.9% of all artists — is to gain enough attention to have sex with powerful people. Like successful peacocks, the colorful and attractive reproduce. Artist’s works are open advertisements to “have sex with me," as much and as often as possible. Sex with the most beautiful and desirable partners. Wealth doesn’t hurt either. Fucking is a far more important impulse underlying art than creating the new, innovative or challenging. The fucking, in fact, is the art.