This weekend I attended the Artserve RedEye: Reality Reimagined event in which I had 2 paintings on the wall, one that was called 'Reading Proust' that was designed to be funny and make a joke out of the sort of task it is getting through the 10,000 or so pages of his most significant work, In Search Of Lost Time. The other painting was called 'Reclaiming The Sanctity Of Life'.
Now during my time studying Philosophy at university I certainly came across and thought about a hell of a lot of things. One thing that was advanced after the epistemology module of the degree was definitions. I suppose I'd call a defining characteristic is something that's been with you all your life, or something that has been with you since you were old enough to choose for yourself. I've been a vegetarian all my life, and now vegan for 6 years. Safe to say it is a defining characteristic. How does it compare though to when people say things about an artist like 'it's a defining work'? Well a defining work as an artist is indicative of best representing, your style, method of composition, technique, taste, essence and artistic prowess. A defining work as an artist has all these.
An artwork that defines you as a person is obviously different, something that is more personal to the artist than their artistic definition, their personal definition. So when I was at an art event with food trucks without vegan options, with people walking around with pots of cows milk mixed with sugar, crisps decorated in various animal scratchings and even the popcorn for the film area being smothered in butter aka cows milk... It's safe to say it makes one vulnerable and self conscious when you have a painting you created that defines you as a person in what based on the surroundings felt almost like hostile territory. I created such a piece to make people think. If it starts a chain of thought but they are surrounded by options that dismiss the essential message of the piece then it is safe to say whatever potency the art has, is quickly ended by the surrounding vending options being indifferent to the idea expressed. Especially when I got the initial idea for 'Reclaiming The Sanctity Of Life' from an Animal Liberation Front stencil.
It's unrealistic perhaps to expect a busy art event to cater to vegans or even to recognise that there's a piece on the wall challenging the ethics of the catering they've chosen being that it isn't food it's violence and exploitation.. so at least a variety may be possible. Needless to say the vulnerability based on the defining nature of the piece made my senses more observant and scrutinous to such things. It leaves one pretty conflicted, I hear great comments on the piece as art, and I'm happy for my career that my art is in a venue with so many people attending and thank them for choosing to involve my pieces. The only issue to it is this is more than a piece of art to me, the artist, it is personally defining. It puts my artistic persona in a precarious position on whether to keep going for such topics because the sincerity and meaning is more palpable in my titles, compositions and brush strokes, or play it safer for the sake of my career where I maybe stay away from such topics so I am not taken to such torn emotional impasses. I suppose we'll both only find out after my next 5 or 6 paintings on which direction my work takes.