There is no better time to consider what the relationship of Independence means to the artist. The cliché is that an artist exists in a fairytale counter culture where being wildly different elevates your status in the eyes of the artworld. Some would call this Independence. What an artist or any professional for that matter quickly realizes as they become serious about pursuing their given profession is that success does not come in a vacuum. The absolute need for ‘the other’ is essential on all levels of operation. In the early stages, in general, we need teachers to ‘show us how’. We model ourselves after these early influences until we have some semblance of self-proficiency. We are as dependent as a newborn baby is on its mother[and father]. This element takes many years to arrive at but with a commitment to the process everyone arrives on their own timetable.
It is then that we can begin to consider a form of independence by being able to ‘express’ our own ideas in a way that reflects who we are at a core level. I would call this our fingerprint. It is our unique ‘given’ that continually pushes through all resistance to find voice. This force however can be altered almost unconsciously for many. There is an irony in pursuing the arts. While we strive to be competent, independent and authentic in our expression we also are required to ‘please’ someone in order to allow for the kind of opportunities that matter in a career. Admittedly this is a difficult balancing act as we interact with the world out there and then look ourselves in the eye in the solitude of our own personal lives. I would propose that the most significant artists might never be seen or recognized because they disregard this requirement and create from the purest of reasons.
With all of these forces at work, how do we find our own place of fertile ground to develop and maintain ourselves? While true independence in my view is an illusion, I do believe that we can fortify ourselves by enhancing the traits and practices that guard the most important parts of ourselves. Some things require compromise to allow for opportunities that we might hope for and want, other things are absolutes that we never allow to be messed with by anyone. Those absolutes need to be defined by each of us regarding what we have determined to be the most important personally and to this artlife. Every one of us will be challenged, tempted and cajoled to become the status quo and herein is an artist’s greatest opportunity. That when it is all said and done we were true to ourselves even if it took mistake after mistake to get there. To me this is the greatest independence that we have available to us.