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The Selfie

October 30, 2014

Making art is a profoundly private gesture, yet, as an artist I want to share my expressions with the world. In the moment, a singular action may seem crazy, but in the context of the artist’s oeuvre, it fits into the pattern of one’s life like a single strand of red wool fits into the greens of a tartan plaid.  We don’t need an audience to cheer us at every move, rather, we need validation through some record of the work having been made— even a bad review will do. Paying a therapist to quietly nod and mumble a few choice banalities will somehow validate all of your concerns; whereas talking to yourself is simply craziness. We simply need a witness.

Like a tree that falls in the forest, many of my artistic actions go unseen. I prefer to work in complete privacy yet my proclivity is to photo-document my actions when possible— and by proclivity, I do mean weakness. To be both documentor and documentee is a contradiction. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, usually applied to science, works here: by turning the camera on one’s self, one can never capture the true nature of one’s self. Selfies are all a lie. So, my work is purest when I don’t care about the outcome or the audience or even documentation. The Zen secret to being an artist is to work like you don’t care,  but to do everything with great care. And be ready for the perfect storm.

When it finally comes to presenting the work—printing it, matting and framing it and then sipping (guzzling) cheap wine while the audience ponders—I have to become a stranger to it. The work is long over, the opening is more a wake than a party, and I am the undertaker. My mind is always on the next moment and, somewhere, I find inspiration for the next work.


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  1. Rob – this is spot on. I am in mourning for my CD project and feeling guilty about my lack of interest in promoting it. This is one of the reasons I knew that I would never be a successful performer. I just can’t sustain the interest. Song writing, composing, video making, is all about the act for me. The exhibition/installation of my visual art, performance of my concert works by others are satisfying but do not pull me the way they probably should. In songwriting, I am happy to play to a group of friends, relations and strangers in a venue like your loft. In fact, I would have to play hundreds of gigs to match that one experience or perhaps would never again have that kind of peak performance experience. So why bother? I am no egotist. I would like folks to see/hear my work but will not make that the focus of my efforts. It is all a way of life. A very difficult one at that.

  2. I like this Rob. I find with my writing that it takes on a completely different (but not necessarily bad) feeling when I write for myself as opposed to an audience of some sort. My best work comes when I write because I need to get something out of me — a cathartic process.
    Be well,

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