what is taboo?

There are things I won’t say and do, but are my taboos holding me back, or are they a type of coding to my DNA that I’m predestined to honor? I recently had a discussion with an artist friend about this very topic, and I was surprised to see how I have restricted my thinking without realizing it. There are universal taboos that we inherently absorb in order to fit in. I know this. My question is, are these just a temporary restriction of the times or a product of a shortsighted society that will never evolve beyond itself. For example, nudity in the United States has a different connotation than nudity in Europe or even the Middle East. The mind set of different cultures dictates the codes their people live and this is a serious matter for all of us. Are these taboos better for me to follow—sort of good housekeeping for the brain to keep me out of trouble—or is it just plain small-minded thinking on the part of people who are afraid to evolve beyond what they know?

As an artist, I think this is a serious topic to look into. I want to understand just what the job of the artist is besides pure decoration? Throughout history the artist has always been the outsider living on the fringe of society. Yet, it’s through their eyes we get to see the world before technology took over and documented it for us. The artist uses visual media to describe an emotional history which no technology can simulate with true inspired accuracy. This, to me, is a huge responsibility and immensely important for artists to protect.

I see the artist as a kind of historian who has to push the boundaries to get to some other truth the rest of us are still blind to. The question I ask myself, though, is how do I let myself go to that place that makes me uncomfortable and opens myself up to criticism?

For me the first step is realizing I want to make “statement art”, and then stay true to it. This means I have to isolate my work until I know the direction it’s to take after accumulating a number of them. It means I have to get past my fears and not worry what people think. It means pushing myself that extra distance, even if it scares me. Everything’s a process. I recognize one painting has to evolve off the one before it and push the limits a little more each time. Also, I need to seek out works by other artists who have already achieved this edginess with a new and original voice. This is where the internet and galleries come in.

So, in the mean time, I poke at my taboos with a little less caution and take new risks.