Friday Tips: Conformist or Nonconformist


An artist can be either. There is no written rule that says you have to be radically dressed, tattooed and pierced, and to the left of center in your politics to dwell in the art world. All you have to be is open-minded. If you can’t be that, at least be bloody good at what you do. Chances are though, if you were born an artist you were also in some measure born a nonconformist. This is something you won’t be able to help, and shouldn’t want to.

Without nonconformity, no democratic society can continue to evolve. If we didn’t have nonconformity, and therefore the drive the to question authority, we would still have institutions like slavery. Politicians, especially of the reactionary stripe, sometimes forget this essential part of our society’s makeup. So if you fall among the nonconformists’ ranks, take pride: you’re in good company.

Grandma Moses, in her quiet way, was a nonconformist. So was Whistler (God rest his turbulent soul). So were Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau, for that matter. So am I. I view life in my own untypical way simply because it’s how I see things, or have brought myself to see things. But that view hasn’t been arrived at haphazardly.

For me, I consider it one of my obligations, through my writing and gallery, to urge society to question itself, its direction, its purpose. I enjoy doing this, although it has a tendency to cast me beyond the pale. That’s fine. The artist is supposed to live beyond the pale, to be something of an outcast. At first this may anger you. Later, if you use good judgment, you’ll see the need for it, and the anger will slip away. Let it, although there’s nothing wrong with letting the anger back in once in awhile. Good work can come from that emotion if taken in doses, but self-destruction is more likely to come from it if used in abundance.

So sure, an artist can either be a conformist or a nonconformist. Whichever you might be, this is not necessarily a determining factor of the caliber of your work. But if you align yourself with the latter, no doubt the journey will be more interesting, and your contributions of a more enduring sort–provided you do more than just complain.

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