The term “artist” has acquired so much baggage over the centuries. Originally it was just a word like craftsman or architect, but beginning in the Renaissance it began to acquire connotations of genius and something special or unique. Then, with the birth of Modern Art and artists like Andy Warhol, the term artist became synonymous with eccentricity and fringe culture. Calling someone an artist merely meant they were artsy, creative, maybe not so great at things like math or writing, and that they probably had a ‘unique’ fashion sense. While all of these are often true of artists, it is not the eccentricity that is the core role of the artistic identity. Artist is a term that has come to not define a role so much as a character trait, which is putting the emphasis on the wrong aspect of creativity. See my earlier quote from Nicolaides about the artist’s temperament here.
Artists are illuminators. They shine light on reality. They should be teaching people to see the world, to focus their attention on something outside the common cultural radar. The term illuminator gives the artist a purpose rather than describing his personality. I’m not about to start referring to myself as an illuminator and refuse to acknowledge the title artist (mostly because that feels incredibly pretentious), but I think it is time for an adjustment in our thinking and a new mental image to accompany the word artist.
What are your thoughts?