Deferred adulthood

March 14, 2008

Robert Genn

In his recent book, "America Alone," Mark Steyn makes frequent
mention of "deferred adulthood." While mainly taking place in
Europe, young people in their twenties and thirties are
choosing to stay in their folks' homes and sidestepping
responsibilities, including marriage and childbearing. They
live on the welfare of parents or state, indulge themselves in
frivolous, self-gratifying activities, seldom negotiate life
improvements, and essentially sleep in. While Steyn is looking
at the political ramifications of the phenomenon, it holds
implications for the creative life. 

The situation may not be helped by people like me who are
always trying to get folks to access their inner child and see
the world and their work "baby-eyes new." Many Western art
schools promote the same sorts of concepts. It's our times. "It
takes a lifetime to become a child," said Picasso.

Last weekend, twenty-five senior members of the Federation of
Canadian Artists juried new applicants to various levels of
status. The slides rolled by, and the original work of each
artist was paraded before us. We privately marked our ballots
"in" or "out." The work ranged from goofy to gorgeous,
conservative and stodgy to fiercely modern. While many jurors
were eager to see new visions triumph, when the ballots were
counted mostly the work with old-fashioned technical
superiority was honoured. While jurors may crave freshness, the
frequent appearance of glibness and childlike, immature
concepts as well as technical laziness didn't cut it like it
used to.

Call us jurors a bunch of fogeys, but we are indeed arbiters of
what gets shown in galleries. Partly because of sleeping in,
civilization may be going to hell in a conservative
hand-basket. There's a pile of younger, smarter people who seem
to have dropped out of the creative race. We'd love to see them
trying, but they're busy with other priorities. We wouldn't
like to see a time when only older, establishment painters get
all the action. Graying societies are declining societies--they
lack the chutzpah for re-growth and rebirth. The game is
totally worth playing. As Steyn pessimistically says,
"Otherwise, it's the end of the world as we know it."

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "We know what we are, but know not what we may be." William
Shakespeare)

Esoterica: Jurors are not allowed to gasp, moan, groan or
enthuse while jurying. Secretly, I often wish we could. Many of
these aspiring artists need to know that the greater world is
more important than our fusty chambers. New stuff needs to be
energetically run up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.
Young people need to know that they must always be putting
themselves forward, that it's worthwhile getting up. "We do not
always get what we deserve, but we often get what we
negotiate." (Gary Karrass)