Art With a "Message"

I can be called many things but an elitist is not one of those things. I grew up a dork, and remain a dork to this day. That is who I am. And having not done art since I was a teenager, I am a self taught artist, so any ego I have about my ‘art’ is pretty minimal. I like what I can do, and I am working to be better at it, and people can feel what they want from there. I hope people dig what I do, with writing, art, or photography, but it is what it is and people dig what they do.

And let’s face it, we all do what we do for us first, and the world second, which is as it should be, to be true to your own voice and vision. And we all do some things people like and some things people won’t like. AS an artist, and AS a person active in a community though,one thing I don’t just dislike but truly hate are self important artists who play at being deep and involved when really they are just focused on themselves and how talented they are.

I hate art with a message.

There, I said it.

I hate art with a message.

I think the notion that some art has a message, and other art does not is an utter farce and is as shallow and selfish as an ‘Artist’ can get. While I will never claim that my stories, pictures, or paintings are terribly deep, there are messages there. Sometimes they are subtle, sometimes the messages are overt but they are there. For me, all the things I do all stem from a desire to tell stories so that is always at the heart of what I am doing. Hell, sometimes I may not even see any message because I am too close to see it, but it is there. It is always there. I have known a LOT of artists, and all of them, me too, have an ego about their work, even if it is minimal. You have to have it because without that ego you cannot do it. Without a belief that what you are doing is valuable then why the hell would you bother with it all? What sucks is when an ego gets so out of control as to believe that what they are saying is IMPORTANT, which then lends itself to inferring that other art may not be so important or deep.

Which is hilarious because, like I said, all art has a message.

Listen to the BEACH BOYS and their songs are about love, and partying, and surfing, and all manner of fun and does that mean there is no message? Uh, no. The message is that life is good, and we need to enjoy it. I get the same message, or a similar one, from MONET, who seemed to love to show how beautiful the world was. So was that not a message? I write dark stories and there are messages, sometimes as simple as that life is not what we believe it to be, or that we can find power in our meekest selves and push onward, or even that we must make sacrifices in order to protect and help those we love. Messages, all of them. So to say that some art has a message and other art does not is ridiculous.

Art with a message indeed.

Oh, wait, what of ‘pop’ art or ‘trash’ art, or mass marketed art. To tell those artists, whomever they are, that their work means nothing is pretty damned bold. Even a painting of a silly monster has meaning. Maybe we need to look a little harder sometimes. Maybe that is the REAL message, not that certain art has meaning and other art does not.


As an artist, questionable artist though I may be, I get frustrated when any other artist feels that they are better trained, better schooled, and have deeper art than anyone else. The more walls you build around yourself and your art the less people see of you AND the art. The less people try to see. Sure, they may go to your opening, or gallery show, and they may like your stuff but do they FEEL it? Do they want to? You can get meaning and feeling from a stick figure just as you can do art of of people of color and claim high ideals and that you are for the People and the Unserved and still say NOTHING.

For me, the more you put on your art, the more baggage you give it, the heavier the piece is, and art is most powerful when it is light, and natural, and makes you feel. You can tell people all you want that you are doing Good work and are helping the people, and are for the people and all that nonsense but dammit, you can help the world just by doing what you do, and taking a moment to legitimately help people, face to face. Telling them you are helping them isn’t quite as effective.

Me, I will just do what I do and let you figure out what it means. And trust me, it means something.


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