Should We Treat Artists as if They Are Real People with Feelings?
On the Saturday night of Luna Fete, the weather turned cold and rainy. Not many people remained to watch the show or to explore the Artist Market.
A woman stopped right outside of my booth, staring intently around at the art. She steadfastly refused to step into my booth (we call it "the floor is lava syndrome"). She made eye contact with me and said, "You are demented". She looked around at the art again and then walked on.
I felt more puzzled than hurt. I know my art is definitely not for everyone. I make weird art for weird people, but why did she feel compelled to share her opinion with me, the artist?
Was she trying to be funny? Possibly, her inflection was sort of flat and monotone so I couldn't get a real good feel on whether she was truly disturbed by my work or if she meant the comment as a joke. Every time I set up at a market or a festival, several people will inevitably ask me if I take a lot of psychedelics. My work is surreal so it's a little outside of the box. I appreciate that they are trying to connect with me on a humorous level. I absolutely get that.
What if, though, we tried treating artists and other retail workers with compassion and kindness? If you've nothing nice to say, why say anything at all?
I've several very talented artist friends who simply refuse to sell at either markets or festivals because of the would be critics who feel like they must give the artists their opinion of their work. We all have our own tastes and our preferences in art. Just because it isn't your style or taste doesn't mean it's bad. It just means it isn't for you.
Artists pour their hearts and souls into their art work. Your words can hurt. If you don't like an artist's work, maybe simply smile and nod and then move on to another booth where the work does resonate with you?
I was fortunate to take enough creative critique classes in college that it's virtually impossible to hurt my feelings. Whatever you want to say to me has already been said by a classmate in a much more direct and brutal fashion. Also, I've my imposter syndrome to keep me humble. Your critique isn't necessary.
Let's normalize being nice. Let's normalize keeping the cutting words to ourselves. I know that artists put themselves out there when they set up at a market or a festival, but it doesn't mean that they are asking for passersby to criticize their work. The artists are just trying to make a living.
Why don't we make it easier for them and treat them like we would want to be treated? Making a living as a festival artist during a worldwide pandemic is already difficult enough, maybe we could pretend, just for a little while, that artists are real people with feelings, and treat them as kindly as we would like to be treated if we were hanging our hearts and souls on our canopy walls for all the world to see.