I have to cringe and/or chuckle when I see the word “emerging”
being applied to younger artists who have apparently stepped from
a womb into Wisconsin’s art culture, been given a pat on
the behind from an art doctor, and who have placed their feet
on the ever rising ladder of success. They have moved into the
limelight and the world is waiting to embrace them. Milwaukee;
Madison; Racine; Green Bay…hotbeds of Wisconsin contemporary
art milieu, are about to seek them out and ensconce them in the
pages of art history.
They have “emerged”! They have stepped into the limelight!
They are the young Turks going forth to do battle! They are the
future of our thriving art culture! Ah! Yes! They are talented…and
gathering by the hundreds and thousands.
They are also the wait staff in your local restaurants, part time
teachers and laborers, and too many are hopeful questing artists
who move to other states. Like generations before, they are part
timers who lust in their hearts for recognition while holding
down day jobs that pay the bills. They are hopeful and expectant;
they are naïve and energetic; they are dupes and they are
dreamers; some will be artists but for a brief time…and
a very few will arrive someday somewhere as fully functioning
successful artists who somehow make their money thru their art
production. Many will move out of state and seek broader audiences.
“Emerging’ has a connotation of hope! Thank goodness
for hope! Being engaged in the process of emerging can go on a
long time…maybe for a lifetime. In art making and the profession
of being an artist, is there a glass ceiling to smash or even
a ceiling that one can define? Perhaps there is only a “Vague
Ceiling” against which many artists push and poke seeking
some reward. Using the word can for a brief moment give us confidence,
continue the illusion or delusion that we are destined for greater
Here are the definitions of the word, emerge, as found in the
online Webster-Merriam Dictionary, 10/18/07
Main Entry: emerge
Etymology: Latin emergere, from e- + mergere to plunge
1 : to become manifest
2 : to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid : come out
3 : to rise from an obscure or inferior position or condition
4 : to come into being through evolution
Please consider #3. “to rise from an obscure or inferior
position or condition”.
As we know, one man’s obscurity is the next man’s
dream. Obscure and inferior are clearly relative terms. And what
about #4? Evolution! Do we stop evolving…ever?
Every newly minted artist “emerges’. Aren’t
all those art school grads “emerging”? Aren’t
the academically trained or self taught artists who manage to
get into exhibits or gain the attention of an arts writer “emerging”?
Aren’t we all following the definition #3 above? Aren’t
we all rising from some more obscure or inferior state to another?
Sadly, maybe not!
Some of us are backsliding, getting less exposure, finding fewer
exhibits, losing our energies, being discouraged and disillusioned…losing
faith that the Art Gods are watching us, and recognizing that
despite our talents and drive we might be walking on a treadmill
that has an illusory reward we never quite can reach. Some of
us never emerge enough!
Perhaps the Greek King, Sisyphus, should be the patron symbol
of artists. We continue to push the art rock up that hill only
to see it roll back again and again.
We really only have the two choices of giving up or trying again.
We must take a deep breath, get another grip on that rock, and
begin to roll it back up that hill made of psychological, material
and financial roadblocks. We need to have endurance as we continue
to grow older, continually “emerging”.
Have you ever heard the part of the story when Sisyphus gives
up? No! It is not part of the mythology. His punishment, dictated
by the gods, required him to begin anew every time the rock rolled
back down. He never stopped.
For the artist, what is the goal? Is pushing the art rock up the
hill a punishment or a privilege…a burden or a joy? Is the
process a good part of the reward?
So go ahead, those of you who “emerge”. Be ready to
do as most others of us do.
Prepare to “reemerge”…over and over again.
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