The quickest way to insanity is to worry about the other guy, what he’s doing, where is he going and is his work better than yours….nowhere in my life was this piece of advice more relavent than when I attended graduate school. The steaming pile of shit that is competitive jealous envy will destroy most souls in the studio arts. It will wriggle its way through every crack, approach darkly up from behind and stab to death those naked, vulnerable moments with the razor sharp knife of inadequacy. And then, like any good muse, once she is no longer interested, she’ll leave you broke and bleeding on the side of the road wondering how the fuck you got there.
I watched one of my favorite studio mates develop an ulcer between beers trying to decide if the work across the hall was any good. According to my mate, most, if not all of the time…..it sucked.
I watched a shouting match between artistic rivals on the gallery floor while we were installing our MFA thesis exhibition. Those two were so close to homicide that we had to intervene with laughter and taunting right then and there to keep the bloodshed at bay.
I watched another student who was in his early 50’s lose his shit on the senior sculpture professor while throwing tools across the foundry and screaming profanities at all other innocents that happened to be within this general vicinity. This guy really thought he was the only genius in the entire graduate program who constantly fell victim to favoritism. His insecurity and aggression grew into an un-tamed beast which devoured any hope of originality in his work. As far as I know he left the school more broken than when he came in; unrecognized and passed over.
I witnessed one female student’s personal hygiene degrade to the point of no return claiming she was protesting against the compulsion of daily showering, and further, feeling closer to her animal nature, demonstrated proof of how far civilized man has separated from the fabric of the earth mother. Yea you know the type…no shower + no sleep + impending neurosis and growing narcissism = individual identity and artistic genius!
I observed with amazement as another female graduate student took refuge in her fascination with penises in which she surrounded herself at all times. I think she honestly believed all that phallic energy kept out the other students’ aesthetic influence (which she secretly monitored with relish) on her own work. On display were an army of little cocks glazed in every conceivable color posted up in doorways, hallways and driveways to ward off the filth of all those bad ideas trying to get at her from the other students. One day the all those little dicks must have unionized, trapped her in her studio and tried to fuck her into oblivion. She dropped out within a month and disappeared back into the fog of banality from whence she came.
I recall being face down in the prone position trying to avoid the ferocious criticism from another of my studio mates who carried a chip on his shoulder the size of Rode Island. Nothing was exempt from his vitriolic attempts to compare the ways things were being run with the way he thought things should run. Instead of trusting the program and getting on with making work, he couched most of his energy into tearing apart the course curriculum, questioning the competency of the faculty, and expressing a general distrust of any critique that came from anyone outside of his vague standards. I never understood why this guy applied to grad school in the first place. He seemed to really enjoy walking around with his mason jar of coffee and holding the other students accountable to the ignorance of their ways, while not making any work of his own on the process. Instead of taking advantage of the insulated bubble that graduate school provides and using that platform to seek maturity and growth as an artist, he became just another clown in a t-shirt. Come to think of it this guy didn’t shower much either…..
I could go on with tails of decrepitude and hilarious madness. I could easily write a playbook of lessons on how to fuck over your fellow artists. From what I experienced in those two years, trust me, I’ve learned to stick to my guns and do what I’ve always been good at doing…….
worry about that guy?…….no thanks.