Why Do I Do This Crazy Stuff? / by Rick Araluce

The Artist installing The Blind Trance, Bellevue Arts Museum, August 2013  .

The Artist installing The Blind Trance, Bellevue Arts Museum, August 2013.

Short answer: Because I must.

Long answer: Because I have been afflicted with the unfortunate impulse to create things that no one might ever want to see for an audience that may or may not care about what I make. Sad but true. It's called "art."

It's hard: You often must work alone, eschewing sunny days or good times with friends or time with your partner to work on the next thing I've just got to finish. And, since an artist starts from nothing, there is no guarantee that all that time spent creating will lead to anything worthwhile. You could be spinning your wheels, slaving away on a fool's errand. And you have to be okay with that. You have to have a will of iron, and a work ethic to match. People will question and criticize your efforts, tell you it's stupid, all-been-done-before. They will ask you why-don't-you-make-something-that-will-make-money? or, when-will-you-cut-your-ear-off? or inform you that artists-are-only-noticed-after-they're-dead, and so on and so on. You will face immense ignorance. You will face disdain. You will face indifference and disregard. You might just be ignored--the worst of all. You will see others in your trade succeed by doing seemingly very little while you toil away unloved and unnoticed. You will feel jealousy and envy. You have to try to convince anonymous arts juries and panels to fund your projects. You have to hope the occasional collector will buy something from time to time so you can keep going. You have to deal with crushing disappointment and rejection. Time and again. You have to never give up. Not ever. That would be to throw your life away, to be like so many others who just couldn't hack it. That would be surrender and failure.

Heck of a way to make a living. This is why I have always had a day job.

"But, Rick," you ask, "don't you want to make your living entirely from your creations? You know, be a REAL ARTIST™?"

Sure, I'd love that. That'd be great. However, I don't have a rich partner--as do many in the arts--to sustain my "hobby." No matter how well my career is going, I have to earn a living; I've got bills and a mortgage and like to eat out every once and a while and take in a show from time to time. I want to be able to buy my girl some awesome shoes for her birthday, maybe even go on vacation once every two years. And I don't want to pursue customers to buy my work. I don't want to try to figure out what they want, so that I can sell them my wares. I don't want to be clever, find a way to play the system, figure out schemes to succeed, like the dreadful advice you find in books and articles of "how to be a successful artist." I know a lot of artists do this crap---but I ain't one of them. I don't want to treat my career as a "business." I'm not interested in being a hustler or a salesman. Art is not business; it is a calling. I want to do what I want to do. Is that hubris? Maybe so. But to make work I tremulously hope will sell is a losing gambit, a rat hole with no bottom. It is creative suicide. To forever attempt to figure out what the galleries want and what the collectors are buying and what's hot at the moment, and what art proposals the juries are funding, and then go ahead and make that thing is a waste of energy and time. I want to lead, not follow. And besides, I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands. That day job, you know. And, damn it, I just don't have the insane amount of energy I had in my 20s. I'm not a kid anymore. And here's the rub with that: when I was a newbie artist I had the energy but few opportunities and options. Now I have many opportunities and options but way less energy. Funny, the dynamic of an artist's career. Funny as a heart attack.

So, why do it? Why put myself through all that masochistic bullshit? Why bash my head against a wall?

Because I want to reach you. I want to take you on a journey inside my world. I want to stir your curiosity and tickle your intellect. I want to tug at your memory and pluck at your emotions. I want to present you with an irresistible riddle, mystery, or story. I want to amaze and inspire you. I want to give you something fantastic, or nostalgic, weird and poetic. Something that shakes you, amuses you, maybe even unnerves and unsettles you a bit. Something that makes you feel human.

I also just like thinking up cool things and trying to figure ways to make them live in the world.

It's not a bad way to spend your time. Even if no one cares. Even if no one likes my work or buys my work or exhibits it on their gallery walls, I'll still do it. Because I must. I think that's called obsession. I'd likely find a way to make my stuff even if I lived within some regime where it was punishable by imprisonment to do so--or worse. I'd do it in secret, just for myself. Sounds extreme, but that's obsession for you.