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Monday Mood: I Had a Weird Interaction with... an American Master?

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

So, I don’t really use Facebook anymore. If anything it’s just a vessel for me to promote Plebeian to people I know who aren’t on other media platforms and to share it across the art communities that are housed on Facebook. The other day I added someone from an art group and I got a really condescending message from them. The message was essentially, “I don’t know you but I see that you’re in the arts community and I’d like to hear about Plebeian.” Now my paraphrasing sounds all fine and dandy but they opened their message with, “I’m an American Master and Listed Artist,” which I thought was super strange but whatever, I sent him a basic rundown of what Plebeian is and what I do specifically. This is where the interaction really irked me because their response was basically, “that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m an American Master, here’s a profile written about me, you can find my auction results here, let me know what I can do for you.” I was really caught off guard by this one, but still trying to be nice I sent another message thanking him for reaching out and told him that I’d take a look at his work and possibly contact him for some Plebeian content in the future. “K.” was his response.

This interaction was incredibly strange but it raised a few points that I’d like to bring up to everyone. Now I don’t want to publicly shame this person, shit on their work, or give any indication of who it actually is but I’d like to use what they sent me as a “what not to do,” tool for our readers because art is a community and being pretentious to someone you don’t know at all is not the way to succeed.

The first thing I’d like to bring up is how they addressed themselves: American Master and Listed Artist. This wasn’t something they said in passing either, it was how they introduced themselves in their first message, they readdressed themselves as such in the follow up message as well as using it as a part of their signature in that very same message. I’ll bring up “Listed Artist,” first because what is that? I’ve been in art for a while, not a super long time but long enough to know the commonly used titles and that’s legitimately the first time I’ve ever heard that. What/where is this person listed? But that’s not what bugged me, what bugged me was the consistent use of the term “American Master.” I’ll start my gripe with this with a little history lesson, the term “master artist,” is a term that comes from when artists were artisans and the skills of art were taught to apprentices by masters. The term then developed into a retrospective term that typically refers to the “great masters,” of the Renaissance and following periods. The term master artist isn’t even really used these days but when it is used it’s used retrospectively, as a way of looking back on a body of work and addressing how great the art and artist were. For example, looking back on the work of Robert Rauschenberg I would say that he was truly an American Master… but I’d say it was extremely unlikely that he ever referred to himself as such. I talk to amazing artists who I’ve revered for far longer than I’ve had a platform to talk to them and not once have I heard one of them refer to themselves as a master, even artists who I would consider masters of their crafts. It’s just such an arrogant term to use on yourself, to call yourself a master artist I shouldn’t have to google you and if I do have to google you it shouldn’t be hard to find your work, but I’ll get into that in a moment. I talk to a lot of artists and I’d say 98% of the interactions are extremely pleasant but I’ve never understood why some artists feel the need to condescend people right off of the gate. Why open up by saying, “I’m so and so. I’m better than you.” What do you get out of that? Nothing, all you’re doing is making the person you’re speaking with think you’re a jerk. It’s also reinforcing this stigma that the arts and artists are this elitist community and we need to erase that. Be humble artists, BE HUMBLE.

I’ll lump the second thing that annoyed me into one category and that was that they sent me a write up about them and told me where I could find their auction results. Now don’t get me wrong, if the conversation had been a little bit more pleasant I probably would have asked for some sort of material like this but they asked me what Plebeian was, I answered, and then they just told me about themselves… totally ignoring what they’d just asked me about. It’s just another arrogant move to be like tell me about yourself and then just ignore the response to tell me about you. But either way I clicked the link and this “write-up,” if you could even call it that, was on the most 1994 ass website, it was only like a paragraph and a half, and featured ZERO images of the person’s work. What kind of artist profile doesn’t have a picture of the art?! Truthfully I think this person wrote it themselves because it was basically just a long winded version of what they messaged me on facebook, but that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me. The second thing was that they said I can find their auction results on certain sites. Spoiler alert: I cannot, I looked for a good bit of time. But it’s another thing of like, why try to flex on me so hard right from the gate? I don’t care if an artist has made money, I profile all levels of artists because I like their work and often because they’re just good people. So to immediately try and flaunt that you’ve made money on your work to me, after I didn’t ask or even hint that I’d like to know, is just so rude in my opinion. It’s again reinforcing the stigma that artists are elitists and I’ll never support that.

I’ve gone long already but I’ll end with this, artists don’t be condescending jerks. Be good people. More often than not a person will be much more willing to work with you if you’re just nice and welcoming, don’t try to establish yourself as better than other people simply for the inflation of your own ego because no one is going to want to work with you. Had this person said, “hey I see you’re in the arts, I’m an artist, tell me about Plebeian,” I would have been much more inclined to further the conversation and potentially work with them. But since they instead used it as a platform to pump their own tires, I just thought they were a jerk and let it end at the “K” they gave me. Finally, I’ll end on one more note: as artists we have to let our work speak for itself. We’re extremely fortunate to live in an artistic era where our personalities are recognized and people want to hear about the person behind the work but it has to be an aid for the work. This person told me how awesome they were but then they sent me an article about them that didn’t feature a picture of their work and I couldn’t find any of the other things they included. I really had to hunt down this person’s work and when I did, I didn’t find “American Master” level work. Artists, speak up, promote yourself, be a personality but at the same time, be humble, don’t be condescending or rude and let your work speak for itself a bit. I pride myself on never being overly critical on this platform and I never seek to just thrash someone for no reason, but this interaction really put a sour taste in my mouth and I wanted to share some of the things that were said strictly to show you all what not to be as artists.

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