I don’t care what your opinion is

I don’t care what your opinion is about my work. Really. I don’t. I don’t care about “the audience”, and I don’t really care about artist statements. I like to make my work, and I’ve been rewarded with gallery representation as well as sales without caring.  At some point you’ll probably hear about this book called “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” , and I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard a lot of people bring it up. The gist I’m guessing is that you can’t really care about other people’s opinions. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t listen, and get feedback and think about it. That’s fine. But when I say “care” I mean you shouldn’t let it effect you, or stop you from creating the work you want to make.

I was sitting in my studio and a knock came at the door and a fellow grad student came in and asked me what I thought about what a professor had said to her. What I said visibly shocked her a bit, but I just blurted out “I think it’s a load of bullshit” I continued on saying “Look, do you listen to death metal?” to which she answered “no” and I then said “well, do you think that the lead singer of Doom gives a fuck about your opinion of how his vocals sound?” She smiled, and said “no”. And that’s pretty much it. Look, we all are going to be bombarded with questions about our work, and we are going to be challenged on certain issues.  It’s ok to stop listening, and just go into performance mode at times.  Listen, and respond, and even challenge what your professors are saying at times, but don’t let their opinion push your work into directions you don’t want it to go.  Inevitably you’re going to get a lot of differing opinions about your work. This can literally happen within minutes of one another. Many times, you’ll find that your professors are contradicting themselves from the start of a studio visit to the end. Like I said before, just think of this as a performance. It’s not about you, no matter how much your professor will want to make it about you, it’s about your work.

Stephen King is a machine when it comes to making work, and he’s one of my heroes for various reasons. But think about this, when you read (or more likely watch) a story made by King are you thinking about who he is? Or are you experiencing his artwork? Now, that’s not to say who he is doesn’t influence his work.  There’s a legend that he saw his best friend killed by a train when he was a kid, and this trauma inspired his dark works, but lets be honest. King loves HP Lovecraft, and other supernatural writings and wanted to make stuff like that. He’s also a great example for other reasons I’ll talk about later. But it’s also refreshing to know that after King gained fame, he immediately wondered if he could gain success writing a different style of fiction, and so he created Richard Bachman who was his pseudonym.

In this case King cared so little about what others thought of him, that he actually created a fake name (complete with a fake photo ) of someone else. The art could stand on its own without him, as Stephen King, and he could be artistically satisfied simply by writing.

So when you’re listening to people about your work, don’t take it too much to heart.  You can discard opinions as you see fit. Maybe if something really sticks in your craw, then that’s because there could be something essential that should be looked at, but what a professor says doesn’t immediately give it some sort of legitimacy. They get stuff wrong all of the time.

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