True art is a product of mastery. Quiet mastery. The burgeoning of a creative project is to be nurtured and honored; like a baby in the womb, it needs peace and time to gestate.
Handing pieces of your art to social media is like handing over pieces of an unborn fetus; it’s an intimation of what could be, but it destroys the possibility that it ever will be something substantial. I can’t help but feel barraged by the myriad of social media pages and accounts that pimp their art, cheapen their words, and make themselves palatable to the masses.
I understand the utility of making art accessible. I comprehend, on some level, why someone might want to make a protein-packed version of a brownie or sing snippets of their songs. I even understand why painters voluntarily elect to share pieces of their paintings.
But art is sacred. Within each piece of art lies a window into the artist’s soul.
Each time I convince myself to post a quote from my writing on Instagram, I’m pimping myself out. I’m essentially saying, Here’s my naked body—can you tap it twice?
And when the commensurate number of taps doesn’t satiate my appeal for attention—or what I feel my words deserve—it is my soul that is injured. It is my art that is left behind, reduced to pitiful pixels on a screen. Moments before, it was a mystical message brought from the ether, through me. Now it’s an exposed, naked corpse, bleeding out on someone’s feed.
And as if the state of art is not already appalling enough to cause you to regurgitate your lunch, I must tell you that now, to be a writer, writing itself is not enough. No. You have to be a podcaster, Instagram model, YouTuber, and Pinterest mogul just to be a writer. It is not enough to just write.
If you only write, your words will never be read. We have to shepherd the sheep in our direction; it is no longer their job to seek art. We must parade ourselves before them like peacocks in heat, in the most enticing way possible, hoping they will find our colors interesting enough to glance twice.
I fear for art. And I fear for consumers of art. When audiences can no longer be bothered to invest their undivided attention into the world of one winding book, or to contemplate the spectrum of colors in a single painting, or to listen to an entire symphony instead of a soggy snippet, what will become of our uniquely human capacity to appreciate art?
Will we still distinguish art from artifice, works of mastery from works of whim?
I’m not an artist. Not by my own definition. An artist is a master. An artist abhors the thought of pimping themselves out, of propagating pieces of their soul onto a platform where bubble butts are more esteemed than any art at all.
I’m guilty of pimping my attempts at art. I’m guilty of sidestepping the diligence and commitment required to master art; I’m guilty of grabbing at the shiniest object in my periphery instead of following the straight path to its end. And I’m guilty of trying at least one bubble butt at-home workout.
But I still know art when I see it. I feel art when I see it. And I worry that one day, we won’t have artists who mastered their craft or audiences that would recognize their art if they had.