Although much of his work reflects the beauty of a rather small geographical area, I doubt if folks around Giverney ever labeled Claude Monet as a local artist. For that matter, do you think New Yorkers ever referred to local artist Jackson Pollack? Of course not.
While the term is often used by well-meaning journalists, most would be surprised to find that professional artists consider it a derogative. It implies a degree of smallness, in scope and in audience, and it reveals nothing of the art created – except perhaps to tell a serious collector that it is only of interest to the artist’s friends and neighbors. As unintentional as the sleight might be, the results can be disastrous.
Last year a well-known Philadelphia-based artist came to my studio accompanied by a Naples writer; the writer introduced me as “one of our local artists.” I smiled politely at the artist and asked him if that’s how he gets introduced around Phillie (after all, every artist has to live somewhere.) The artist laughed, getting my point, but I’m afraid I rather put-off the writer.
Being a regional artist is a different ball of wax altogether. Regional art refers to work inspired almost exclusively by the unique offerings of a particular landscape: Hudson River Valley, Coastal New England, Western, even Southwestern for My personal favorite was dubbed the Ashcan School and dealt primarily with urban-scapes of the Northeast (a kind of American revolutionary reaction to the picturesque pastoral scenes that were all the rage with French impressionists). But regional art is still about the art, method and motif, style and originality.
I am an artist that lives locally. Paul Arsenault, Muffy Clark Gill, and Melinda Trick are artists that live locally. We are all inspired by our surroundings, but not limited to them as subject matter. More important is that we exhibit around the country, and our work is collected around the world. Nothing is small about our scope, or our audience, or our appeal. We are not local artists.
Some artists are more than comfortable with the appellation, it may describe their place in the art world perfectly, but when I hear a professional refer to themselves as a local artist as though it were actually a selling point, I just want to pinch them (tenderly) and explain the limits they place on themselves by doing so.
There’s nothing wrong with advertising that you live locally, visiting art-lovers often love to collect work from artists that live in or around the places they travel, but they aren’t looking for souvenirs, they are looking for art. Change the way you think about yourself, and others will follow suit.
You, dear artist, are a painter, or a sculptor, or a glass-blower, or a weaver, that happens to live…here!
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong, award-winning, artist has been an area resident since 1967. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida and is cur-rently represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery on Marco Island. Visit www.taraogallery.com