Artists and boundaries

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There are many life affirming qualities in being an artist. As far as I know, human beings are the only living creatures who create symbols of aspects of life. Other creatures might communicate with signals, but a symbol takes expression on to a more complex level than that, possibly providing a stimulus for reflection on several layers of meaning. It is understandable that many folks are attracted to the world of being artists, but it seems obvious that only a few of those who start the journey will last on course through the ups and downs of an artistic career.

Artists have to get used to being open about their vulnerabilities – when they present their work, but also behind the scenes. Each of us can only be ourselves and our personal attributes tend to determine many factors when we’re faced with choices and decisions to make. There are other folks who lack the confidence to be as open in being vulnerable in public, but are attracted to the buzz of the artistic world. They want to join in, but can only do so through riding on the coat tails of the (possibly) more courageous souls who take the risks of being undermined for their openness.

Is it fair to regard these piggy back riders as predators? It isn’t always clear, because most of us don’t have enough time, energy or resources for investigating about other people’s motives or value systems.

It is no wonder therefore, that many established artists appear to be flinty and cynical about human nature, especially when dealing with colleagues behind the scenes. Stories abound of artists who say and do things to business associates and co-workers that could appear to be at odds with their public images, sometimes in comical ways.

Who can blame artists for being self protective? I was accused of being like that early in my career. But opening one’s self up to exploitation from others can be draining and painful. Surely we have the right to define our boundaries and maintain them in dealing with everyone else?