A quality gallery marketer published a podcast I listened to just this past week. The teaser? ‘Three things not to talk about (if you want to sell your art)’. Here’s the short version: never talk about politics, religion or sports. This guy is good, and I respect his advice; but the funny part is, I had just that morning posted an opinion piece on my personal facebook page. I decided to leave it there, as there is so much mud in the waters now politically, and the op-ed writer was shining some light on a certain subject. It didn’t take long before another artist friend of mine (who sells very well) posted an alternate view to the article I liked under mine. I appreciated her viewpoint; it gave some important info. But haunting me was the echo of several who’ve instructed me “don’t get political” so, I did the cowardly thing and deleted the entire post.
I’m reminded of advice given my husband and I years ago. We were in our young 20’s, and taking our summer job boss out to dinner to thank him. He was a pleasant man, maybe several decades older than us. We were from the era of campus political demonstrations and new in our spiritual convictions. To us: ‘if you care about someone, you talk about what is most important to you.’ He tried to give us advice (which we did not take): “There are two things you never talk about: religion or politics”. People said something like that a lot in the 1950’s. I remember quietly imagining how boring if conversations could never wrestle with such things.
Now I’m older than that boss was then. Now I am learning new tricks and living in a very different, even more divisive time. And one of those taboo subjects (according the gallery marketer) is what moves me to work!
But not to worry. The advantage I have doing art is that I can “tell it slant” as Emily Dickinson used to say. There is no muzzle on when the work sings with beauty on its own. Makoto Fujimura explains it: “Art is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator. Every time an architect imagines a new building, an artist envisions that first stroke of a brush on a white canvas, a poet seeks a resonant sound in words, or a choreographer weaves a pause in layers of movements, that act is done in hope; the creator reaches out in hope to call the world into that creation.” –Refractions (NavPress, 2009), 68.
No deletions have to be considered when the work gently vibrates into even the harshest of times. Art speaks. It beckons and invites. And you can walk away without feeling like you’ve been sold something you didn’t want to buy. The artists are the ones who may be the best at talking now, for as C.S. Lewis said, they are the ones who can “steal past those watchful dragons”.