Saturday, April 12, 2008


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:


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Rocinante Press said...

I find the topic of an "emerging" artist more confusing than "self-taught," - when do you stop emerging? I used to hear some artists refer to themselves as "mid-career," which I suppose means you've been around a while but you are not "established." But if you never become "established," are you always emerging?

James Rosenthal said...

I guess there are some new terms we need to think of and add to the list. How about "past it" or "over the hill?" I'd settle for gallery representation on a small scale!

Rocinante Press said...

Hmmm...those seem a little obnoxious. We're all going to be older someday and might not appreciate them. How about "undiscovered?"

I'd settle for that small scale gallery representation myself!

James Rosenthal said...

yes, well. I know it sounds obnoxious but reality is tough. I am already speaking from experience. Seriously, I am in 'mid-career' but technically I don't have an art career as such apart from teaching. Yet I refuse to be lumped in with anybody else who happened to get an art degree (or 2) and those who don't. I guess I am trying to say that my work is better now than it ever was!