Drawing the line between art and artsy

    I am artistic. I am by no means an artist.

    When people ask me what my major is, I reluctantly answer “”media.”” I often hear the words roll out of my mouth and notice that this simple response sounds so much better than “”visual arts-media with an emphasis in film and video.””

    Do I plan on being a filmmaker? Doubtful. I plan on being a corporate sellout. Translation: I will pursue a career in graphic design, editing, advertising or some other integral part of the commercially driven society that artists despise.

    I dread answering the “”What’s your major?”” question, and I hate being looked down upon for pursuing an artistic career instead of an intellectual one. But what I loathe most — even more than the overwhelming disappointment I sense from those who expect me to follow more of an overachieving academic path — is the assumption that being an art major is a joke.

    The most common reaction I get from those who dare to delve further into the discussion of my major after hearing my short, simple, please-don’t-ask-me-to-explain-this response is, “”Oh, that must be fun.”” When I hear this, I know they’re implying that fun equals easy.

    For the record: Being a film and video major is not easy, especially when you’re competing with a bunch of artists.

    The easiest way I know of to differentiate between an artist and one who is artistic can be best described by an example from my linguistics 7 lecture: Someone who is deaf is without hearing, and someone who is Deaf uses American Sign Language and is a member of the culturally rich Deaf community. Similarly, one who is artistically inclined possesses the ability to make art, while artists live and breathe their work — they devote their lives to art, and they love what they do.

    I have always liked to dance, write, draw, sculpt, paint — you name it. I have always been artistically inclined, but I don’t think I’ll ever become an artist. I don’t have that kind of passion for my art. Perhaps I don’t even have the natural talent. More importantly, I could never actually convince myself that devoting any time to really developing my skills would be practical or beneficial to my quest to capture that ever-elusive creature called Success.

    I’ve been dancing since I was 7 years old, but am I good? No. Could I ever be in a professional company? Not a chance. I’m only 5-foot-3, I’m not nearly thin enough to be a professional dancer and I don’t have the potential. As much as people envy me for having a major that’s “”so fun”” and what they assume to be “”something I love,”” I envy artists for having whatever it is that makes them great.

    A friend and I have two words that explain every great work of art we’ve seen presented in a UCSD visual arts class: “”tortured soul.”” Everything I’ve seen has negative implications and makes profound statements about how corrupt the world is. This led us to the conclusion that to be a great artist, one must be tortured. This also led us to the conclusion that we are way too normal to be art students.

    I recently discussed this with another friend of mine, a non-visual arts major, and she agreed that there is a strong prejudice against nonartists in art classes. I honestly think that the reason my teaching assistants don’t take me seriously is that I’m a reasonably good-looking young woman who gives the impression that there’s more to her life than sitting in front of a computer screen making underground computer art while listening to experimental sound art on her down time away from researching obscure indie films.

    Excuse me for having a well-rounded life and giving in to a bit of pop culture. I’ve already admitted I’m not an artist. There’s no use pretending to be something I’m not. I just don’t understand why the people who already obviously are artists deserve more praise and attention than those of us who are merely trying to acquire some skills (or at least pass some general education classes).

    I don’t think that what artists possess that makes them great can be learned: You either have it or you don’t.

    I don’t have a problem with not being an artist. There are plenty of jobs out there for those of us more artistically inclined. However, there is no forum for the more corporate-geared art student at UCSD.

    Call me crazy, but I thought the reason we are paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend college is so that we will be able to go out and get fabulous jobs to support ourselves. Instead, I get told that my art isn’t conceptual enough and that I’m a sellout and have no artistic integrity for wanting to pursue a career in commercial art.

    I still strive to be the overachiever I’ve always been, and this is part of the reason I reluctantly answer the “”What’s your major?”” question with “”media.”” It sounds a little more prestigious than “”art.”” It’s dumb, I know, but I still think that all those people who knew me way back when and expected me to go off and do something profoundly overachieving with my life would be disappointed that I went to college to be a visual arts major.

    For those of you true artists out there, I apologize if this rant has offended you. I’m obviously just jealous. I’m after a little more fame, fortune and glory than the poor, starving artist lifestyle can provide. If that makes me a sellout, so be it. I will continue to admire the work of all the true artists on this campus and wonder what it is they’re doing here when they already possess the skills that the rest of us work so hard to imitate.

    A few inspiring words of wisdom to my fellow artistic people: Go ahead and learn all the theory you want. It won’t do you any good. Being an artist is not something we can learn. If you’re just artistically inclined like I am, don’t beat yourself up too much for it. Instead, gather all the technical skills you can, and go work in a career you will be able to support yourself with. At least find something that makes you happy — I know I will.

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