Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Letters to a Young Artist- Xu Bing

With graduation two months away and the state of the economy, I am doubting if it's possible to live as a freelance artist. I don't want to settle by working full-time for someone, but this week I am particularly worn out. In the mail today a friend sent me a book of letters, called "Letters to a Young Artist". The letters are by famous visual artists who talk about the struggles of starting out as an artist. The timing couldn't of been better.

Today on BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, I read the first letter. It is by Chinese artist Xu Bing. The sentence that touched me was this:

"Consequently, a good artist is a thinking person, and is a person adept at translating thoughts into the language of art."

I worry that I think too much and that I spend too much time recording events in my journal, web site or blog and then analyze them for deeper meaning, then derive sculptures from them. My inner critic is very harsh and tells me to get into the studio and create something that can be sold and to do it NOW! Xu organized my muddled thoughts, that's ok to be a thinker, but also to be a creator. For me, I only want to create thoughtful art. That way, myself and others would have a reason to come back and repeatedly look at the artwork. I want to spend my time doing something worth while so it is imperative to create thoughtful art.

Before reading Xu's letter, I'd never heard of him. I figured that in order to be taken seriously as a visual artist, I need to be knowledgeable on the big name artists. So I looked up Xu Bing's website. On it, I discovered that we have more in common than I thought.

First of all, he created art using Braille. The book is called Brailliterate, which is a blend of the words "braille" and "illiterate". It is a book in Braille expect for the cover. The catch is that the print and Braille title of the book don't read the same thing. Only a sighted person who could read Braille would catch the inaccuracy. Brailliterate talks about cultural bias, misinterpretation and concealment.

The second thing that caught my interest is that Xu Bing was a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Award in 1999. It was given to him for "originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society, particularly in printmaking and calligraphy."

On the Mac Arthur site, I found a list of visual artists who have won the award. I recognize only a few, so I plan to look into them and their art.

I plan to use this book of letters for encouragement and remind myself that they did, so why can't I?

1 comment:

  1. God has such good timing. What a great book from a thoughtful friend.

    My dear little bird. You will make it. There is a path, a wonderous path, just for you, if you are brave enough and tenacious enough to find and then follow that path.

    I KNOW that you are brave enough and tenacious enough to do both!