By definition, the art critic is someone who specializes in evaluating art. Their writings can be found in newspapers, magazines, books, television and web sites, and while the backgrounds of these critics vary, their influence on the art world is legendary. An art critic can make or break an artist by just using words…and this gives me pause. In history many great artists have been overlooked or panned because their work wasn’t in favor at the time. The Impressionists, for example, received bad reviews because their work just didn’t fit the norm of the day. Since art is so subjective, why have we given these critics so much influence over our culture? Many of them are failed artists themselves and have an inflated sense of arrogance about what they do. It’s not only the art world, but also movie, theater and literary critics.
I know first hand how the opinion of one man can put fear in an artist’s heart and even detour a career. Years ago when I was just beginning my art work, I was offered a show in one of the more prestigious library galleries. It was a big deal to me at the time and I invited everyone I knew to the opening. However, it must have been a slow week for the art critic from a major South Jersey newspaper. He came to my exhibition and wrote about my work with words like, “ad-nauseam, ad-infinitum.” I had to look up what it meant. I was embarrassed for myself and for all those people who purchased my work.
But soon I became angry. Who was this man anyway? He wasn’t an artist, yet presumed to know all there was about making art. Still, in some way he was the fuel that later energized my art. I set out to show him he had no clue what he was talking about. It was a lesson that served me well my whole career. There will always be people out there with negative opinions. In order for me to move on with my art, I needed to surround myself with people I trusted…people who had a good understanding of what kind of art I aspired to and were honest but constructive about their criticism.
In the end, no one should have the power over your art, except you.