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  • Hannah Barnhardt

On "Success"

Yesterday someone tried to insult me by saying that if people aren't clamoring to buy my work that it must be obviously worthless. It always amuses me when people say this, especially other artists (this was a designer), considering the vast history of art full of highly influential artists who never saw success.

 

These same people who make fun of me are likely influenced themselves by artists like Van Gogh, who was considered a crazy person and an asshole, and never lived to see how millions of people loved his work so much that they'll buy it on kitsch for the next hundred years.

 

Many of people's most beloved examples of major artistic thinkers never knew fame or even success in their lifetime: this means that they had to pursue the often strange and avant-garde things they were doing WITHOUT support or praise from the system or the people in general.

 

They had to tune out the people calling them a failure for not being financially successful, and continue what they were doing, in order to fully realize their artistic achievement. If they had listened to those people, that work would never have been created.

 

I am 0% interested in being famous, or making a ton of money. I have the things I'm trying to do that come from within me and I want to make the work, & that is my ultimate priority: the work. It is not about how much the people like my work, because the people have proven over and over again that they are often wrong (& late).

 

I am not going to make art by committee, tailoring my original ideas to instead be something that people identify with more, & will thus maybe pay for; I haven't existed in the usual spaces that people are familiar with, & so I don't have these same common experiences & opinions anyway. It is actually difficult for me, and a struggle, to make work that other people identify with, because my values are radically different from most other people.

 

Obviously if someone commissions something, they request what they want, and that's not what I'm talking about here; I'm talking about radically changing the subject matter of my work so that it would appeal to more people---which I am not interested in trying to do.

I can only make my work, and be completely true to the visions I have; that is what the world needs of me as an artist (while also not being an asshole etc.). It does not need more people churning out what people want to see; honestly the robots are already really good at that.

And really, other artists should never scoff at artists who are less successful, ever, especially if you know anything about the history of art. It's fine to keep your superior feelings to yourself.