Do you have a creed?

January 4, 2011
by Robert Genn

Model-making artist Joe Fig has produced a remarkable book, Inside the Artist's
Studio, in which he visits and photographs the studios of dozens of well-known New
York contemporary painters. He also records each artist's answers to a number of
set questions, many of which are practical ones concerning studio layout, painting
processes, work hours and habits, clean-up times, unique tools, titling, the use
of assistants, and advice for younger artists. His second-to-last question, "Do
you have a motto or a creed that as an artist you live by?" picked up a range of
answers, both predictable and insightful.

Many of these painters didn't want to admit having a creed. Alex Rockman, Ryan
McGinness, Mary Heilmann, Eric Fischl and Inka Essenhigh gave a flat "no." Chuck
Close defined the attitude a little more closely: "Inspiration is for amateurs--the
rest of us just show up and get to work." 

Dana Schutz said she couldn't remember any of her mottos, while Joan Snyder just
laughed at the very idea of having them.

Some of the answers were lengthy. The word "truth" was prevalent. Steve Mumford
admonished, "Try to be absolutely truthful to yourself and almost try to flout
popular taste in seeking out what it is that you really are interested in doing."
Billy Sullivan said it was important "to be honest in the work and to have fun."
Malcolm Morley used only one word: "Fidelity."

"Do what you want to do," was the advice of Fred Tomaselli, while Matthew Ritchie
said, "Remain interested in what you're doing." Will Cotton said, "Ask yourself
daily if you're excited."

Julie Mehretu felt her motto was, "to really put everything into my work so the
work returns that to me." And Amy Sillman observed, "You're going to die so you
may as well make the most of it." 

Barnaby Furnas said it was important to realize, "there are no mistakes," while
Bill Jensen said, "You have to let the paintings lead you." April Gornik told us,
"Great art should be vulnerable to interpretation." And James Siena said, "Your
success will come out of the work you do, not who you know, what parties you go to,
or what you wear." Ross Bleckner also took the high road: "Bring something new,
something beautiful and something filled with light into the world."

Best regards,


PS: "If you hang in there, you will get somewhere." (Chuck Close)

Esoterica: "I'm very happy that I've had the chance to be a painter," said Philip
Pearlstein. Of all of them, Gregory Amenoff seemed the least narcissistic: "Artists
need to support other artists," he said. "When younger, you're part of a community,
when older you need to create opportunities for the younger ones. In the meantime
you have a responsibility to work fiercely in the studio in exchange for the
privilege of making things the world doesnt necessarily ask for." And Joe Fig,
the guy who compiled all this? He has a sign over his door that reads: "Focus,
Discipline and Faith."