I have been reading a lot lately to see who is appropriate to rip off and stick in my novel about the art world so I have been keen to notice language and terms. Have you ever passed a cafe or gallery that was showing a self-taught artist? The results inside are usually dreadful, whatever the education level. What does self-taught mean? I imagine a folk artist of some sort who follows a type of craftsmanship from a bygone age. The term certainly implies that you haven’t passed through the gears of an art school which, for most, guarantees that society will regard you as a charlatan. There is of course the conundrum of trained artists passing as self-taught. That is confusing me. Then there is term emerging. If you are an emerging self-taught artist, the chances are that you are already dead. If you are emerging and then drop from sight, are you then submerged? Though you may re-emerge at some point. What bugs me most is that musicians are always held up to a higher scrutiny. Many jazz and rock greats are self-taught so my self-taught skills as a guitar player and songwriter have some tough competition. (In this case, I believe being middle class is an obstacle.) Society frowns on amateur (crap) musicians performing in formal venues. Some sort of quality is expected no matter the genre of music. So why are amateur visual artists given the same respect as trained artists when it is difficult enough for “taught” artists – doesn’t this imply class? – to get an exhibition? Is it because we are so afraid of the term bourgeois or elite. They’re only words!
Check out James’s band, “Clarksville” on the MySpace music page and see if he is full of shit: