The commissioned self-sufficient artist

I am frequently struck by the fear of how work-life is going to strangle my creativity. The depressing and arguable idea that anything that is done for a living is forced and therefore not fun. Having fun being forced to have fun, I don’t know about that.

I have thought a lot about the commissioned artist. The artist who is creative on demand of someone else. Who performs someone else’s purpose, realizes the commissioned idea visually. The commissioned artist is someone being told what to do. Who’s creativity is directed for them. The art school kid that I still am shivers. I never liked being told what to do. I never wanted to compromise with my creativity. I got a lot of enemies in middle school for dictating the art class group work. Not much of a collaborator. Not much for compromise.

Being paid to make an object attractive to buy. Feels claustrophobic. Where does the notorious free artistic expression fit in? What if I want to make disgusting art? What if I want you to go “ew”?

A super-stylised still life arrangement with a Salvatore Ferragamo bag placed on top of a podium covered in a heavy-looking dark blue velvet cloth. Green grapes surround the bag, an element of luxury. A big pixelated image is set as a backdrop. In the image we can sense the shape of a body floating in air, dressed in white. It’s Jesus. Two other bodies float slightly under him, angels of some sort. The pixilated blue sky fills up the rest of the backdrop. Playing with the cheapness of a bad quality image which pictures the opposite; something sacred and mostly respected. The grapes play a frequently used, somewhat child-like, symbol of luxury.

In this photograph, commissioned by Vogue Ukraine, photographer David Brandon Geeting plays with the whole concept of luxury and merchandise. Looking at the image, I feel like Geeting is trolling the industry. Shoving the idea of extravagance in my face. Super-pixelating Jesus, playing with myth and untouchability. The bag hovering on expensive fabric and bunches of grapes. Enhancing the luxury of a designer item. Selling the bag on the terms that he is given; that it is something hyper-exclusive. Promoting a 2000-dollar satchel next to the title: Cult of Excellence.

The whole concept of advertising is purposely enhanced in this image. Inside an industry with the sole purpose of selling something perfect when perfect is not even possible, the lie of advertisement is presented in a humorous way. Mocking the act of perfecting, while still existing in the forum whose goal is to display material objects as perfect. Our desire to buy, to own, is not sneakily hidden away. Instead it is enhanced and made into something of a parody of itself.

Using the commercial platform to communicate the complex relationship between art and commerce. Between personal moral pointers and making a living for oneself. Being okay with moral compromise. Being okay with cozying up with the capitalist ideology that kisses the ass of major profit. It’s not easy, it’s not a beautiful thing. But one could utilize that space to perhaps feel a little bit better about their career choices. It’s a platform that can be taken advantage of, playing with the artistry in relation to the product or service. Twisting and turning this interesting but confusing middle ground.

Admitting to yourself the capitalist world you are part of and the standards (and musts) it forces upon you. Paying your rent and grocery shopping peculiarly expensive cereal and extra-soft toilet paper. Increasing demand to increase supply.

Also somewhat highlighting the fact that commerce reaches a way broader public. Your regular public transport commuter might not go to see a Geeting exhibition in a gallery after a nine to five day at work. Exposing art to others than the people of the closed, posh, academic upper class that has too much money, don’t know what to do with it, becoming art collectors.

Whether caught up in the circumstances of the commercial world or in the art world, there’s always higher powers deciding. The commercial world is nasty and capitalist, but so is the art world.

I’d love for this to be some type of self-reassuring manifesto that leaves me one hundred percent comfortable with the idea of working for big-profit companies. Presenting their cheap products expensively with my creative ability, contributing to ugly capitalism.

Money feels great. Unfortunately, money is in many ways socially perceived as equal to freedom. Freedom to save up to do that actual art project that exists without compromise. That is my very own. Waking up three of five mornings during the week as the sole post art school kid dictator of my own high-rent art studio.

There is no easy-way-out motivation that makes it all click, that justifies a morally shattered act of collecting checks from the major profit, toxic commerce industry. So that I can live that good life.

In the end it’s partly about swallowing a lot of pride. Who really, full-heartedly loves being that financially struggling artist anyway?

Even somewhat strangled creativity has roots somewhere (arguably quite deeply) hidden in the personal. The compromise is to be ok with the reality that you are always bought, owned, paid, hired, no matter where you are or what you do. Playing bestie with capitalism can grant the commissioned artist the freedom to at least play the American dream-type made up role of the self-sufficient artist.