Artists Don't Ask Permission & Never Apologize for Your Art

There's much talk abuzzing in the art world about a certain painting at the Whitney Biennial this year,  which brings up the questions of who has a "right" to use certain images and when is it okay to censor a work of art. Roberta Smith, in the New York Times, wrote a thoughtful article that I felt covered the issue very well. Another good opinion article in Hyperallergic by Coco Fusco is here.

First, we have to ask: what is art for? There are no right answers, but I tend to think art is a place for exploration: a way to examine what interests, moves or bothers us; a method for empathy and trying on other ways of looking at life; a way to serve up food for thought; a way to reach out emotionally; a way to connect with others. Looking back through that list I see the words "a way" repeated and wonder if that is what art is: a path towards something new, or a path of return.

When you set out on a path, you don't generally ask permission, unless you are very young and need to ask your guardian to go outside and play, or if you are older and want to borrow their car. In those cases, someone else is responsible: your guardian for your well-being or as owner of property that does not belong to you. But your art belongs to you. Your artistic vision belongs to you. And you are the guardian of it. In her article Roberta Smith wrote the line "But artists don't ask permission." Part of the artist's job is revealing a line of inquiry, spurring new questions – an opening – not a shutting down.

I'm disturbed these days, sometimes even distraught, on how much shutting down is happening. And I hope artists will remember to keep the doors open.

Art is a place for freedom. And artists are free to explore whatever they choose, for whatever reason. We must feel free to exchange opinions and be aware, but not afraid, that we may disagree. We don't make art by consensus. And we do not have to apologize for our art. But we must listen to the responses and be open to discussion. We must retain our freedom to create.