New Hope Arts has asked me to curate an exhibition of emerging artists in their twenties and thirties. The term “emerging artist”, used to classify a stage in a creative career, is often presumed as an interchangeable descriptor of youth. Of course, many young artists have advanced in their professional lives and many older artists have yet to find their entrance. The vague notion of injecting fresh blood into the system or showing off the next hot thing didn’t satisfy me, but I was curious to reexamine the notion of emergence as it hovers over this age bracket. It is, after all, the age bracket in which I temporarily fall as an artist myself.
Emergence in relation to the art market is a consideration of what’s in vogue, but as it concerns the artist, emergence is instead a translation from one life to another, not of advancing along a path. This is the translation of the private experience of making art to the public experience of showing art. As much as many artists commit great hope and effort into finding an audience for their work, they spend as much time trying to cultivate, protect and indulge in their privacy. The time of so-called emergence is one in which, above all, the artist is navigating and negotiating the private and public experiences of their artwork. There is a shock, sometimes invigorating and sometimes unsettling, that comes with the exposition of one’s most intimate endeavors. The exhibition at New Hope Arts is composed of work that in one way or another feels particularly demonstrative of the transition between the private and public spheres, as experienced by the artists themselves.
Topically, privacy is linked to existential anxiety. Revelations of government spy programs and hacking attacks have recently highlighted the collateral damage from extending our lives into virtual formats. In that online world the footprint of our persona and the access to it have been increased. Privacy is most recognizable when it is being invaded and hence no longer being private. Even being aware of our own moments of privacy is a sort of invasion that breaks the spell. Privacy is the space, experiences and things with which we identify and around which we build fences to keep from being spoiled. Reciprocally every fence denotes value of something within and provokes our curiosity. Fences are a source of worry—that we can’t cross over the fences of others and that others might cross over ours. It is easier to worry about the form of privacy than the content, because form is easier to define.
The content of privacy is a slippery sense of first-hand self. It is the mental place in which we are most disentangled from the responsibility of a public persona and most engaged in individual experience. It is paradoxical to suggest that individual experience can be communicated authentically but in artwork the evidence of privacy is greatest. It is there that we can find the residue of internal vision cultivated in private. The catlike ambivalence of artwork to its audience protects the privacy that the artist his or her self cannot alone defend.
True privacy is solitary—a cocoon of idiosyncrasy. But sensations arise in the joys and sorrows of privacy that can be too big for one person alone to hold. The urge to share privacy, to share the sense of self is a profound gamble and perhaps the most human act of all. For in the fight against the cosmic lonesomeness we will risk giving up a bit of our selves for the possibility that some response will confirm our existence. Heartbreak occurs when we allow someone inside the fence who does not recognize our private self. When a connection is found though, it expands the limits of the self and creates meaning. It is why we fall in love, search for life beyond our planet, explore the unknown, and why we make and exhibit art. Privacy, whence shared, becomes intimacy. Therefor the greatest hope for artwork that is spawned in private exploration, is for it to have an intimate quality when brought into the public eye.
Ideally I wanted to put on an exhibition examining privacy in its least corrupted form, made up of artists so removed from public view that they would be virtually undiscoverable. Since I didn’t have the fortitude to go prying open suspicious broom closets or go bushwhacking through jungle to find such clinically reclusive subjects, I looked for artists whose emergent visions from that internal place of privacy felt most intimate. As with any exhibition the curtain is pulled aside to shine light on creative novelties, but in this case hopefully light is also shone on the curtain itself and raises the question, what does art look like before an audience sees it and what becomes of it after.
Privacy Made Public will be on view at New Hope Arts Center from May 30th to June 21st with an opening May 30th from 6 to 9. More information at newhopearts.org