Museum Studies Blog

Posted on June 2nd, 2021 in Internships, Student Work by Laura Holzman | Tags:

By Emily McAvoy, IUPUI Museum Studies MA student

Recently I was speaking with a colleague of mine about the selfish nature of artists. This may sound harsh, or overly critical, but it is true. All artists are incredibly selfish. 

But from the perspective of a curator, I am envious of the ways in which some artists are not afraid to take up space, speak their minds, and demand a sense of appreciation or love from their viewers. Artists are selfish in a way that benefits their community and themselves. They have found a way to speak out about injustice, mental illness, beauty, and ugliness in a way that is bold and eloquent. 

A person stands between two works of art affixed to a gallery wall.

Emily McAvoy in the gallery.

They are selfish in the way that they assume others will always understand their work and profoundly impact another person’s state of mind.  But I support this behavior because I believe artists are able to tap into a collective sense of spirituality and well-being that can be hard to reach in a community that has been traumatized. I have been a victim of this selfishness in the past, particularly when I have come upon a piece of work that has brought me to tears because of its beauty and sharp emotional undertones. 

Artists are selfish in a sense that they own a piece of humanity. Without art, the world would be so much harder to navigate. We wouldn’t be able to see through the industrial grey that has overtaken our environment. We all need the messiness, vibrancy, and texture that art brings to our lives. 

I hope artists never lose their sense of selfishness. It is a vice that shapes our lives and splashes color onto a world that desperately needs a new coat of paint.