Self Expression And Value

I had a great idea in an art school media communications course for a project called “Masks.”  I would create a mask that didn’t hide or “mask.” 

It would be clear and revealing rather than disguising or shielding.  I still think the idea was great, it was an anti project, a creative rebellion against the established norm of definition. 


Mask (Photo credit: poropitia outside the box)

Alas, the execution was woefully inadequate, given I wasted my time partying, and only tried to execute it the morning the assignment was due.  My professor at the time had no mercy on me. or my excuses for lack of quality in craftsmanship.  He might have mentioned that the idea had some merit, but that was lost in the scathing criticism of unthoughtful production values and lack of gravitas. I failed the project miserably.  I think I was glad to get a “D”  that semester in that class. I had a myriad of options, materials, and other resources available to me, and squandered them with the trivialities of an unfocused young man. I was hurt. I had not realized, not “made real” what I wanted to put out.  Instead, I had treated something significant to me cheaply, and got called out on it. 

But I learned a lesson about not “half-assing” your efforts to make yourself understood.

Another time,  during a group critique session, a professor burst our academic assessments of each others works by interrupting it all, calling all our works banal, cliché, and asking why we were being petty, “Is there no deep shit in your lives?”  This time it was not a  matter of execution, there were skilled sculptors, painters, photographers and multimedia people involved.  The problem was not skills, it was worth, self worth, personal value, and value to the viewer/experiencer.  The course title was about art and self expression, and it had been described as “psycho therapy with a dentist.”  

A lot of people would drop that course after the first couple of sessions, even the first session, some of us survived more than one semester.  To those who did, what we learned could not be represented with a mere grade.

Those two episodes combined their messages powerfully for me.  Not everything you wish to express is of significance to everyone, but if it is to you, then you should consciously express yourself as skillfully as possible.

We were learning skills and increasing in  knowledge, but they were no guarantor of value.  Self expression at the level we aspired to required some value, high personal values as well as value to others.

We were made to understand that not every photo you make of your kids looking goofy, a piece of clay you mold into an ashtray, every poem you write, is invaluable to the world at large. That conceit and self indulgence is the least valuable quality in creating art, and the most wasteful of you audience’s moments of life.

What?  That photo I did of the Empire State Building was not drawing the well deserved lingering admiration of everyone who by chance cast eyes upon it!  After all, I think it’s high art.  Well, no. Most viewers would not really care, even though it was in focus, well composed, and well printed. It is one of hundreds of thousands other photos of the Empire State Building. It is a pedestrian image.  My indignation would only reflect my conceit, that my superficial value was not regarded with greater admiration.

Too strong a sentiment? You don’t believe it?  I bet you don’t click on every image, video, link, and status update of your hundreds of  Facebook friends.  Then again, maybe you do.  I think a few do.

Honestly, I don’t. I scan the page, pass over the cutesy framed sayings, and videos of dogs, and people trying to look like celebrities on a red carpet.  If something looks “meaningful” I may click on it to experience more.  If it turns out to be some sort of trick to enhance that persons ego, I probably won’t give them much time in the future.

Facebook friends, don’t be too upset that others don’t “like” every picture of your cat, or dog, or child, or self, that you post/exhibit.  They’re not earth shaking masterpieces.

Working on an exhibit was a more thoughtful activity.  You didn’t exhibit everything and anything, you exhibited your best, or most meaningful, because there would be criticism,especially if the works were considered a waste of the viewers time.

Those “friends” that continually tell you “how beautiful” it all is are probably being as conceited and shallow as you are, or else they’d tell you that’s the fifteen hundredth time you’ve posted a pic of yourself wide eyed, open mouthed, with a beer in your hand, and that you’ve wasted their time.

Despite it’s great potential for communication, enrichment, and sharing of value, Facebook is largely a haven for competition among wannabe celebrities and “artists” who never have to endure the growth provided by criticism.

Interesting that Facebook friends never tell you you’re wrong, or fell short, or just plain sucked.  But then you might “unfriend” them, and they might miss that one time when you contribute something of significance to them.


2 thoughts on “Self Expression And Value

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