Recently I had a conversation with an artist who I occasionally run into at my day job. He explained his art practice in such a way that made me feel very uncomfortable. To him, it seems, art is mostly a product, a commodity to be sold in a business. But art can, and perhaps should, aspire to so much more - the personal (universal), the spiritual, and the political! Art is more than just a consumer good, something to be plucked off a wall, put on a t-shirt, painted on a shoe, or incorporated into an interior design scheme, more than a product, whose sole point of existence is to sell itself in a vulgar economic scheme. Art should provoke, inspire, and transcend! It should provide solace, question authority, express emotion, demand change!
Money is very important. I've learned in my 22 years of struggle as a practicing adult artist, that when you don't have money, this can effect how and where you live (I've lost count of how many forced relocations I've had to endure), your relationships (many will not date a person with financial woes), and your health (both physical and mental). But despite this, there is still one thing that trumps money every time: artistic integrity.
Perhaps the artist I was conversing with will enjoy nicer clothing, better food, and the occasional cigar, all the trappings of bourgeois success, but I will be the richer in spirit at the end of the day.