Artistic independence / by Jeannine Cook

Every time I open a magazine or paper addressing the art world at present, there seems to be another indication of the closing of galleries, shrinking of museum activities or general hard times for artists. As in every other field, there is an on-going shake-out and re-evaluation of the recent assumptions and priorities.

But it is also a time to be opportunistic as an artist, to do some personal re-evaluation and to try and grow professionally. I found a wonderful quote from Georgia O'Keeffe which I felt is a really fitting sentiment for now : "I have but one desire as a painter - that is to paint what I see, as I see it, in my own way, without regard for the desires or tastes of the professional dealer or the professional collector....". That is a clarion call if there ever was one! And one, I believe, that each of us can learn from, because artistic independence is an oft-shaded affair, especially when a certain type of art that one is producing is selling well. It is so tempting to go on doing the same thing, the same formula, but in the end, that does not often lead to artistic growth. The same tendency can come from dealers who find that a certain type of art sells better than another type, so they "suggest" that one stays in the winning lane.

When all bets are off in terms of what art will meet with financial success, it rather liberates an artist. Each of us is free to produce art that is personally important in terms of convictions, passions, experiments, etc. Only time will tell whether these new ventures will meet with financial success, but in the interim, you probably will grow as an artist. And surely, as Georgia O'Keeffe proved so wonderfully, that is what it is all about, at the end of the day.