The great Oscar Wilde says, “A true artist takes no notice whatever of the public. The public are to him non-existent.”
Sorry, Oscar Wilde, but you are wrong. A true artist expresses and communicates to the public. An artist that does not care for his audience is an ignorant jerk.
How can someone completely ignore the audience? If you don’t create for someone, you are only creating for yourself. Which is fine, but don’t expect there to be a long line of people wanting to see your pity art.
“The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He is to be the violin on which the master is to play. And the more completely he can suppress his own silly views, his own foolish prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.”
Being receptive and open-minded to looking at art is a great notion. We should all have minds so playful to entertain new concepts. But the reality is that we all carry around our own baggage. We have perceived notions and ways of interpreting things. To ignore that is to ignore humanity.
Artists should be completely receptive to what the viewer brings. Just as the viewer is receptive to the art, the artist needs to reciprocate and allow the viewer to bring his/her own meaning to the artwork.
To say that the art is to dominate the spectator is to be a bully. It’s to be arrogant. It’s to be domineering. It’s to be a jerk.
Being a jerk doesn’t help you to communicate with people. It’s simply being a jerk.
Oscar Wilde, I love your call for people to be more open-minded to art, but please be open-minded to your audience.
There are two extremes of artmaking that Wilde brings up:
- The artist who placates to the public’s whims. This artist bows down to all the current trends. The artist who doesn’t give any personal thought.
- The other end is the artist who wants viewers to bow down immediately to his art. The public to not have any other thoughts about what the artwork could be.
Oscar Wilde is writing about how artists should not be like the first extreme. If you make art that follows the trends, you lose your personality. But Wilde goes so far in his argument that he goes to the other extreme where he wants his personality to be the only arbitrator on what his art is.
The best place to be is in the middle. Be an artist who communicates to the public. Art is always about a communication. What are you communicating? Communication is always a two-way street. If it’s a one-way street, then it’s merely broadcasting. Oscar Wilde wants artists to be broadcasters.
If an artist wants to try to be a broadcaster instead of a communicater, that’s fine. But then the artist shouldn’t get up on his high horse and expect people to bow down to his artwork. If his artwork happens to be great, then that’s great. If it’s not, then it’s not.
If his artwork happens to be interpreted in other ways, then that’s great. An artist shouldn’t get all pissy that someone doesn’t pay attention to his work. If nobody pays attention to your artwork, then suck it up.
Wilde wants to say “I and I alone” determine what my artwork is. in his exact words: “He is not the arbiter of the work of art.” (He being the viewer).
Oscar, please allow your audience to decide for themselves what they think of your artwork. Readers, what do you think about this? Let me know in the comments. Thank you.
What do you think about Oscar Wilde?
— Matt Maldre (@spudart) October 17, 2013