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What do you think of when you hear the word artist? If you are an artist, the definition could include words like: blood, sweat, tears, solitude, failed works, joyful successes and so much more. If you aren’t one, you might imagine someone eating grapes, lounging around on fine furniture and occasionally dabbing some paint on canvas. Or perhaps the extreme: you see a starving artist, sketching portraits for loose change on the streets. Either way, the artist invokes imagery and imagination, inspiration and introspection into the very workings of our creative selves. But art is ever changing and this week and this brings us to the controversial world of artisans.


When you conjure up the aforementioned images, no matter how elaborate you may imagine, typically you see one artist, with creative vision working with their chosen medium. However, these days in the land of grandeur and mass-production, this is not always the case. There is a new relationship between artists and artisans and the true ‘artist’ or creator of the work is actually in question when it comes to some of these pieces. Some artists use artisans to do all their grunt and dirty work, leaving the final touches and signature to themselves. Does this change the definition of an artist?


Many individuals from famous Renaissance artists like Michelangelo to contemporary creators such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and others openly whipped up numerous works, many of which had relatively no direct input from the artists themselves. Many of these pieces, created by perhaps dozens of assistants at times, have sold at auctions for millions of dollars. Where does this leave the artisan? How does this affect the aspiring creative individual who works for or with a ‘name’ to simply be involved in the artist community?


I suppose it’s easier to accept the use of artisans in some forms of art than others. Take video art for instance, which is typically expected to involve numerous people playing roles in setting up scenes, props, editing, music, etc. Similarly, conceptual art that is more of a vision takes on a different role, as the work is more about the importance of the message the original creator had in mind, rather than the physical part of creating it. Or take for example an oversized work of art (sculpture for instance) that is unimaginably enormous, where the process of erecting the work itself requires assistance. In a world driven by the demand of galleries, public opinion and instant gratification – it’s understandable that some pieces need the help of artisans to complete on schedule.


Obviously the artist remains the guiding hand behind their work. I know many artists that work very closely and spend hours discussing their vision and ultimate goal with their assistants. Some are involved in every step of the process, while others simply put their name on the final product. So the real question in these cases is – who is the artist? Should the artisans receive the same credit the original visionary receives, or are they simply laying down a foundation for the work inspired by the 'name' behind the work?


What are your thoughts on artists and artisans?


Remember: grow; learn; conserve; preserve; create; question; educate; change; and free your mind.

About: Kelli Klymenko is an artist, a faculty member and the Marketing & Events Coordinator at Sedona Arts Center: a gathering place where artists can learn, teach, and exhibit their works at the center’s School of the Arts and Fine Art Gallery in uptown Sedona.

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