What Role Does Sex Play in an Artist's Career?
With the new Whitney Biennial line-up just out and very, very conspicuous sales results at the Miami art fairs to judge by, it's the "bruised ego" time of year again, when many artists will overanalyze the data and conclude, at least temporarily, that perhaps their parents were right...perhaps they should have become dentists instead.
But don't sublet your studio just yet. In Sunday's New York Times was an article suggesting there are other benefits to being an artist than inclusion in a museum exhibition or selling out your inventory in four days:
The artists and poets who frequent Yaddo and MacDowell might already have predicted what two psychologists at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the Open University in Britain announced last week: creative types of both sexes have more sexual partners than their nonartistic counterparts, according to their research, which will be posted on the Web site of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal.From what I hear, Skowhegan is like a co-ed college dorm with extasy-spiked water-coolers.
The Marianne Moores and Joseph Cornells, private, cerebral types devoted to their mothers, are apparently the exception; Edna St. Vincent Millay, left, Pablo Picasso and Georges Simenon, voracious lovers all, are truer to the form. The two researchers interviewed 425 British male and female professional artists and poets, making careful scientific inquiry into their sexual histories, mental health and artistic output. The creatives had 4 to 10 partners in their past, compared to the mere 3 claimed by less artistic counterparts.
But, I realize as I type this, that if you weren't already depressed enough, being in the more shy-artist-like-Cornell camp might send you over the edge, so you really must read this hilarious response to the survey by Dino Champman in The Guardian:
Trainee psychologists have published a study in which they blame artists for the fact that schizophrenia has not been cleansed from the gene pool. Creative types, they say, might carry the gene, and are twice as promiscuous as mentally healthy non-artists. "Creative types have more sex" and "Why an artistic nature may do wonders for your love life" read the headlines.Read the whole thing...it gets even better. This line in particular got me to thinking, though:
What a pile of crap. Those responsible should be shot. Better still, they should be forced to have several thousand sexual partners. Preferably schizoid artists, bad, ugly, psychotic ones. Then shot.
But if people want to romanticise us as foppish degenerates who flout all prevailing laws and take many lovers, we'll happily oblige.Clearly, the sort of emerging visual artists who are generally asked to pose in Vouge (present issue excluded [see Todd Gibson's smackdown on From the Floor]) are hoping to (or being advised to) sex up their image. And there's only one reason to do that it seems: sex sells.
Back before we opened the gallery, Josh and I spent hours debating the purpose/mission of the space. Why were we doing this...what were our goals. One day when I waxing philosophical about what motivated artists and what motivated me to work with artists, Josh (perhaps the best person I've ever met at cutting through the b.s.) called me on it..."OK, so stop right there. What do you think is the ultimate motivation for an artist?" I thought for a moment, and eventually responded, "Well, I think the ultimate motivation for anyone is getting laid." Josh said "thank God" that was my response; had I answered anything else he wasn't sure we could work together.
Which isn't to say we opened the gallery to get laid (honestly B., it's just an example), just that the ultimate reason anyone works really hard at anything is ultimately wrapped up with their being more attractive (in the eyes of who they want to sleep with, in the eyes of who they want to associate with, in the eyes of their God, in the eyes of their children/parents, etc.). Kissinger's adage, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," holds true whether the arena is politics or the art world or academia or whatever. How else does one explain the fact that many women admit to seeing Donald Rumsfeld as strangley attractive.
So perhaps I've got it backwards, perhaps its not that the hot young art star poses in Vogue to sex up their image, but rather that the power they wield makes them sexy. Like I noted above, my brains still not ready for any heavy lifting...I just found the articles above amusing and wanted to engage in a little stream of consciousness...a polluted stream, no doubt, but...