Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good Problem: calling yourself an artist

"These days the word 'artist' is pretty tired. It’s one-size-fits-all like no other word in the English language, maybe apart from 'god' and pronouns. It describes Isadora Duncan, Spike Lee, Picasso and Q-Tip, all in a day’s work. And just when it thinks it can take a breather, it has to account for that kid living on the Bowery praying his orgy Polaroids make it into the Whitney and that writer in Starbucks taking trippy liberties with linear structure in a screenplay called Mama. Even the man on 42nd Street who believes the world could always use a few more faces of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic spray-painted onto felt, even he has a claim on the word.

“'Artist' can’t make even the briefest public appearance without extensive baggage. The next time you’re at a party and someone asks what you do for a living, boldly say artist, then sit back and watch the jolting effect that little word has upon a conversation. Above 14th Street, you’ll be offered money, food, some tips on where to find free lodging. Below 14th Street, the person will smirk, dutifully ask 'What kind?' or appear to start swallowing an egg, which is a disguised yawn. You’ll get a hug in the Midwest. In Santa Monica, you’ll get 'sweet' and an invitation to go Rollerblading. In certain parts of the country you’ll get tied up and thrown into the back of a pickup truck, and no one will ever hear from you again."

From a review written by Marisha Pessl of Bob Dylan’s New book of paintings and drawings from the New York Times Book Review.

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