The Responsibility of the Artist

Artist Sessa Englund hosts the fifth conversation on Responsibility on the rooftop of Brooklyn Brush Studios in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Contributing artists include Ella Joyce Buckley, Olivia Fox, Zaria Poem, and Sarah Walker.

In the second series of the NYC Creative Salon, 6 groups of artists got together to talk about the responsibilities of the artist. Is certain work irresponsible? Is all work valid in relation to an artist’s own point of view? What kinds of things should an artist consider when creating their work in order to be responsible?

We have all witnessed controversial work that makes certain viewers angry and call for it to be taken down. Most recently, the St. Louis Museum of Art exhibited a show by a white artist who smeared toothpaste and chocolate over images of black bodies. Is this an appropriate artistic action to take in the midst of the political landscape dealing with unarmed black men and police brutality? Probably not.

In other cases, does outrage over certain artwork actually reveal something that viewers are perhaps afraid to confront? Can work that elicits anger be effective or responsible in it’s execution? Can anger over a work of art be misplaced or mis-informed? These are the questions that artists must face when considering how their work functions in the larger conversation of the art world, politics, and the perspectives of the viewers who will deal with their work. Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ is another piece that garnered outrage and controversy because of it’s content which seemed to be a denunciation of Christianity. Serrano argued that “the work is not intended to denounce religion, it alludes to a perceived commercializing or cheapening of Christian icons in contemporary culture.” The artist’s intent and the reading of the work by the viewer is often at odds, another element that the artist may need to consider.

See photos, read about, and listen to the conversations that the NYC Creative Salon hosted on the topic of Responsibility: