The Relationship of Trust and Artist

January 28, 2018

When I talk about art with my fellow artists, we don’t talk a lot about the business of things, most of those stories are the same for all of us. What really sets us on fire is the reason behind the art. Usually that discussion will end up with us wondering out loud about the artist either showing fidelity to his own vision or making some kind of compromise for his or her audience. Some go farther and put it in crass terms of the artist vs. the audience. But that’s a misnomer because the artist is actually in a position of trust with the audience.

If you think about it, you put your trust in everyone else at some point. When I order a hamburger from the drive through, I trust the cook didn’t put rat poison in my food. I trust the plumber to come into my house where my children are running around. I trust the people who work in the factory that built my car. We’re interconnected in a way that forces us to be vulnerable to complete strangers. I’m not saying people are all trustworthy, but we couldn’t function in life if we didn’t trust the people around us in general.
from a distance

Given we already trust other people all the time, the artist might as well trust an audience if for no other reason than the audience has to put some form of trust in the artist. One example would be when I take my kids to the movies. I trust the story-tellers aren’t going to smash-cut to a hard boiled murder scene in the middle of a story about a cute little bunny. Instead of thinking of the artist-and-audience relationship as adversarial, it ought to be one of humanity and trust.

For this reason the artist has a responsibility to be trustworthy in his or her expression. There are a lot of stories I write or paintings I craft that I know the audience won’t understand, appreciate, enjoy or even tolerate. I’ve seen a score of art shows where the painter seemed to hate the people who came to his work. This is a betrayal of trust, even in modernity when an audience seems to be okay with that betrayal.

It seems that artist and audience has drifted apart over the last half century. We used to all like the same kinds of things. Now we’re splintered into a thousand different cable channels because we can’t culturally come together. My hope is that in the future we can meet in the center somewhere, some day.

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One Response to “The Relationship of Trust and Artist”

  1. Ryan Says:

    I hadn’t thought about this aspect of the relationship between artist and audience. I think it’s true and important. Good stuff.


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