Outsider Art and the Solitary Bee


A piece made by Ann Wood for Phil Morrison’s film “Junebug.” A Chicago art dealer (Embeth Davidtz) travels South to research the work of a self-taught artist named David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor).

Someone lovely once caught a glimpse of me and bought me a copy of The Outsider. Not the Camus, but a non-fiction piece on how creative people often feel like outsiders. Someone voiced a good question at a thing I was at recently: how do we value what it is we do if we’re, as artists, trying to push the envelope? Who’s to say if it’s any good? Who’s to say that it’s got any value? Doesn’t it all get more complicated if we start tallking about monetary value or does that flatten the landscape out a bit? (Money, after all, is quantifiable. Nothing much in the world makes sense in terms of the monetary value we place on it, right?)

I was talking to someone who said that art isn’t valued in a capitalist society, which puzzled me. Again, how are we to think about value and worth in relation to commodities? We’re social creatures. Consciously or not, we value social and cultural things for survival. We also use and manipulate social and cultural things for our own pleasure and progress. “Things?” you might cry. Yeah, things.

Tell me, what’s a unit of culture?

Incidentally, I’m happy to understand a meme to mean “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another” in the same way a gene is a unit of genetic information. A thing, a bit, a piece of something that carries meaning, has an effect etc.

(Man, that was the VERY first question I was asked in my very first tute at uni, “What is a gene?” I remember having just read something quite flimsy about genetics and I blabbered some nonsense about genetics.)

Anyway, I digress. (Those familiar with my blog know that this is how I write).

A good friend was bouncing some thoughts about with me and shared his idea of artists being like solitary bees (a type of bee), perhaps. We feed the hive and the community but we live in our separate holes in the ground.

Yesterday I was asked, essentially, where I saw myself in a few years time. I have often wondered how I would feel if I never was famous for being a writer, artist, singer, actress. Every few years my answer changes. At this stage, I am really interested in acting and performing more, to work on live pieces with an ensemble who challenge and inspire me, and to make more films. I DO want to be out there, making good work that is recognised as being worth while and valuable. If I died without my writing going down in history, I think that would be ok. The things I make make some people extremely happy and that is already a tremendous success. I am utterly privileged to be able to do what I do.

I do have a romanticised view of me beetling away, writing and making the things I do, producing the events I do, and never really being known for that. Don’t get me wrong, I get very cross sometimes, when people don’t seem to know what it is I DO. It’s entirely my fault, though, if fault is even a relevant concept here. I hope that as I get older, I’ll care less what people think of me.

What is the point of this blog piece? I’m contemplating the solitary nature of being an artist, of being a person who is curious, hungry, smart and open.

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