Recently, I was told off by a curator for innocently remarking that I admired a certain photographer’s work. “I need to educate you on what is in and what is out before you make big mistakes,” she snapped with authority, implying that a peon like me doesn’t deserve to have a contrary opinion. It felt like I was back in high school trying hard to fit in with the popular kids, begging my mom to rush me to the mall after school so I could buy a cropped jean jacket (that I didn’t even like) just so I could blend in.
I didn’t say anything back and forced my bright former-sorority-girl-smile to mask my hurt feelings. I’ve wished ever since that I’d been able to come up with the perfect polite yet strong retort at the spur of the moment. Some lucky people are able to disarm an insult like tennis players lob balls across the court. I have never been one of them.
Here is what I wish I had said: The whole point of art is that there isn’t a right or wrong. It’s a matter of personal taste. As long as I am a free citizen of the world, I will treasure my individuality, and this includes my taste in art and other forms of creative, uncensored expression.
Unfortunately, a few art world snobs have given the entire field a cold, unapproachable reputation that lurks overhead like a storm cloud. You can easily pick the snobs out of the crowd at an opening. They are always the ones name-dropping in the corner in an exclusive circle. They refer to all the artists and collectors by first names and everyone nods along, pretending to know exactly who is being referred to, but secretly taking mental notes of people to Google later on.
Lately I’ve stopped nodding along. I’ve started to actually admit what or whom I don’t know. I have (at least I hope somewhat articulately) begun to explain why I like or don’t like an artist’s latest work. This has led to some of the best conversations I’ve had in my life and the acquisition of a new circle of friends including a mentor.
I’m sure that my blog, opinions, and even my smile are going to offend others besides the curator (who shall remain anonymous), but I’ve decided to stubbornly take this kind of criticism as a compliment that I am someone who is worth having an opinion about. I started this blog to make the region’s art scene less intimidating and more accessible, not to become popular enough to be inducted into one more elite group.