I did a web search to find the definition;
a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility.
“it’s my duty to uphold the law”
a task or action that someone is required to perform.
“the queen’s official duties”
I was caught up on the word watching a popular show recently. All the characters doing this gracious waltz of obligation and social leverage in the name of duty. What does duty mean to me as an artist? What is my moral obligation, my responsibility, what leverages my choices? My residency show opened up last night and both of the wonderful women who work at the school were there for me, for the school, for the show. They were there because they believe in the school and because of my hard work, they also believed in me. I was honored but I also know I worked hard to create such a beautiful show because I felt a responsibility to the school to repay the opportunity it had given me. When I first started, I was assured, no one was watching my hours. I was not accountable to anyone for the time I put in, but I felt a duty to be there. The difference between duty and responsibility to me feels like an honor to fulfill an obligation versus being leveraged by other entities desires and needs on how I use my time. I see duty as a burden of choice, I choose to accept the obligation.
As an artist, there is no obligation about what you create unless you choose to be a success. The moment I did that I had a duty to be the best, most professional version of myself I could be. My careers success is based on how I committed I am to work hard, creating art, and putting the best foot forward as a professional. How well I do things now will provide better opportunities for those artists who choose to follow in my footsteps because I am standing in the path of those who have gone before me. Those who came before me, who carved the path; are real people and I recognize a duty to their memory. It is also my responsibility to give as much to those behind me as I have received from those who came before me. I gain nothing from hoarding what I know and in fact will make it a better world for those who walk with me and those who come behind me. I leverage my choices because this is what I want for the world, a place where creativity is nurtured and welcomed. I want people to be able to enjoy art without being judged for their tastes in it.
When I first started painting, people would ask me when I would follow my mother and become a professional like her. I wouldn’t say because I think I understood then, being a professional was more than hanging my art and selling. All professional artists come here from different places and there are different levels of commitment. I was raised by a woman who fought and clawed for all the opportunities that I take for granted now. The duty I feel, is a mantle of honor. The leverage I apply to my life is an investment in my career that I want to have.
My choice isn’t for everyone and it should never inhibit your choice to create. This is about making art your life and to use it to make a living. Children, everyday people, retirees, and anyone who has a craft budget that rivals the national debt should feel free to create without feeling duty or obligation. Let art be art for joy. Don’t define or limit how you create, just make the world beautiful.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.