Maybe the issue for many traditionally trained artists trying to fit into a conceptual art world is - we’re not performers. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy performance art or even acting. I like a good story. Whenever I visit somewhere new I inevitably began to create stories in my mind of the places and people. I enjoy searching the small independently-owned bookstores for memoirs by local residents. Later, when I return to the studio, I even tend to paint in a narrative fashion. I recreate these stories and include myself in the interaction; but acting it out would be something all together different. I’m not a performer. I don’t even enjoy attending my own exhibition openings.
I’m not much for labels when it comes to categorizing artists, but I am beginning to wonder if there are basically two types of artists in this contemporary art market – those that can perform on cue and those that create behind the scenes. Another way of phrasing this idea is to group artists by those that create as extroverts within the context of true society and those that recoil from their community to create somewhat alone within a somewhat less-than-honest world of their own making. Is this escapist nature a more fitting tag for the “traditional” artist?
Julian Schnabel is one of our few living art legends - he paints, constructs, writes and directs films. I was, personally, amazed by the transition he made from creating gallery-based work to his two wonderful films: Basquiat and Before Night Falls. However, we do not have any evidence that he can be a performer. It doesn’t make him any more or less of an artist. I’m not saying he cannot adapt his art based on the ability to publicly perform. I’m simply defining the type of work he has created in his career so far. Working from that example, Julian Schnabel isn’t unlike the rest of us “traditional” artists. – DN