The Creative Endeavors Thread Wonders If It’s A “Joiner”

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So one of my 2020 resolutions—like most of the rest, remanded for obvious reasons—had been to join at least one artistic organization in the area. I was never entirely sure why I wanted to; it felt like the thing to do if I wanted to get serious about properly pursuing this stuff, but it made me uneasy at the same time (is there any “proper” way to make or experience art? no, but there’s the dilemma). There were three major options—one local based, one local-based but more broadly focused on networking and outreach rather than craft or ideas (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and one in Detroit that had its appeal but which felt like a pretentious move on my part given that my residence could only be interpreted as part of the greater metro area at the broadest possible remove.

The most local choice seemed the most obvious; much of the work I saw in local bars and coffeeshops was somehow connected—if not outright linked—to the circles said choice made possible, and if nothing else it would be nice to hear of other local artists’ methods and experiences to get an idea of what kind of improvements I could make with my own work and systems. I’ve made a number of admittedly tenuous connections with some local peeps via Instagram (and embarrassingly didn’t realize that I was sitting next to one of them at a show last weekend in Ypsilanti until I got on the bus back to Ann Arbor), and one of the spurs to this recent impulse was the local organization liking a number of works and sketches I posted on social media. Having said all that, I still balked at the idea, not least as it feels like there’s a quasi-official patina and direction to this corner of the local art world not dissimilar—looking at another gaggle of media entirely—to the MFA culture of modern-day litfic.

Back in 2018, about a year after I started painting, I’d come back to Ann Arbor from a visit to Detroit—taking in both the DIA and MOCAD (the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit)—and was struck, among other things, by how safe and anodyne was much of the work I encountered in the local galleries (that night coincided with a downtown festival and I was able to get to see much of this stuff for the first time). There were pleasant landscapes following nineteenth-century models a little too faithfully, or work so ethereally conceptual that it felt like it hadn’t meant anything in the making, especially compared to the stuff I’d seen in Detroit (almost certainly untrue on a literal level, but that’s how it came across to me).

As far as I’ve been able to tell in the years since, this hasn’t changed much even as the social and political currents of all our circles grow stronger and harder to ignore (certainly can’t stress that enough recently). My own work’s not exactly looking to make a big splash or effect major changes—not least as I’m pretty sure I’ve neither the technical talent nor the situational right to do so—but I’m trying to do something a bit different (if admittedly still figuring out what) and it didn’t feel like the culture was terribly friendly to this kind of, well, creative endeavor. Leaning towards joining for a year and seeing what changes might need to be made and if I can help make them, but am wary nonetheless of how all of this works.

Today’s header’s the safest image of joiners I could find, dating from c. 1880 and appearing in some sort of German publication by an artist named Tischler; I Googled and couldn’t turn up anything else, but did learn of the Polish artist Heinrich Tischler (1892-1938) who, though obviously too late for this particular provenance, sounded worth checking out further.

How’s your work going?