New Essay: “Drowned Art”

   I go through phases where I, incensed with a new idea I want to put into writing, suddenly feel defused as soon as I look at the screen. “What does this even matter,” a voice will tell me, “nobody cares to read this.”

   How does one create art in a vacuum? How does one go about being creative when it isn’t the established kitsch du jour? When you actually feel that you have something worthwhile to express, and the technical ability to do so?

   I went to an art exhibition last weekend – and no, I am not going to put quotes around the word art, however tempting. There were actually a few pieces that did qualify for the title, and I would not want to demean those.

   A few people were obviously serious. There were landscape paintings – both in a relatively realistic and in a relatively abstract style. Paintings that clearly showed in style who had painted them. Paintings bearing the mark of having been made by someone who cared about the places and subjects, and who had dealt with the medium long enough to develop their own style.

   But they drowned. They drowned in the sea of garbage surrounding them. If 10% of the exhibitors were artists, the remaining 90% were middle-aged women who out of boredom had taken a course on some creative topic. Then gone on to mass-produce crocheted dolls, painted stones, small canvases with the same stencil-shape in different colours. The same pottery – seen hundreds of times before – the same little wire trees with amber for leaves – the same cheap jewelry with the same fake stones.

   The worst part, I thought to myself, wasn’t that people with absolutely no talent chose to devote themselves to creative pursuits, or even expose the rest of us to their creations. The worst part was that they actually take it seriously. They think they have as much right to be there and exhibit as the artists who are actually talented and have spent a large proportion of their lives honing their craft. And they think themselves absolutely entitled to drown out the real art. Because they actually think that theirs is equally real.

   How I envy those women. I envy the constant confirmation they receive from their surroundings. Everybody else seems to think this is good, so it must be good! I have no such chorus. I struggle ahead every day, trying to clear a path through hostile territory, never certain I’ll get anywhere closer to my goal.

   But that’s the kind of problem one gets when one tries to be anything approaching original. Or actually want to say something for themselves, and not just repeat what others have already said.

Published By: K-M Skalkenæs

Danish poet, writer and painter. Writings include her own original poetry in English and Danish, and translations of poetry from the Scandinavian languages and German into English.

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