Is originality relevant? Yes. But it certainly doesn't poll very well.
When I was a little kid, I often wondered “Why do people copy what other people do instead of wanting to be different?” I was naïve then. But the question is nonetheless valid. Today, leadership built on following long-held personal convictions, regardless of what a person’s peers believe, also seems naive. Corporations, special interest groups, and governments now mine our statistical data for their own ends. They mirror back at us what we believe, or what we want to hear and to gain our trust to sell us their bill of goods. But as an artist and a person seeking to contribute to our culture by airing divergent views, I believe it’s important to address timely subjects, such as this relentlessly expanding digital profiling in the context of art. It's important for the public to be thoughtful when being bombarded with so many images daily. Whether those pictures are mindless fluff or have the power to affect policy and/or the paths our lives take, they are being created, selected, and aimed by algorithms seeking to achieve specific goals such as making money, acquiring information or promoting some ideology.
Money and power have been key factors in art—high, low and in between—for centuries. What has changed dramatically in the digital era is the speed with which some forms of art can be made, sold, and delivered. For example, with a few clicks of a mouse, a digital print on archival quality paper, sized and framed to your taste, can be on its way to you. So a huge number of people are able to buy original works of art via the Internet. But the best-selling Internet art seems strikingly unoriginal, relying heavily on the standard memes of landscapes, flowers, pets, pattern, glitter, superheros, celebrities and porn.
I had a conversation with my wife some months ago about the differences between art in museums and most of the art on Print On Demand (POD) art sites, as well as the audiences for each. She said that there’s a segment of the shopping public that primarily regards art as an “accessory”... embellishment for t-shirts, cell phone cases, and all of the other products a person can buy which can be covered in designed ornamentation. This includes POD prints. Many customers consider them accessories to match the couch or interior décor and make their home more beautiful. Much of POD art aspires to be fashionable, nostalgic, cute, comforting, whimsical, or pretty. It plays it safe and polls well with audiences employing variations on the same kind of images that you’ve seen before, like the never-ending movie sequels Hollywood produces. By definition, most POD art is banal because it is being created solely with the intent to sell to the largest possible number of buyers by appealing to the target demographic’s most common expectations and desires.
Art that innovates, challenges perceptions, or generally attempts to get the viewer to think about the world differently tends to be what is in museums. It was created by artists whose first consideration was to communicate new and unique ideas. Its stimulating originality and potentially transcendent qualities encourage me to participate, and promotes the cogitative difference it possesses.
I make art because I seek to be an advocate for seeing and thinking. I enjoy the intellectual conversation that artists have with each other and with the interested public. And I believe I can contribute something new to the dialogue.
I also believe that there is value in my art taking on issues facing the culture, as well as personal frustrations which may be shared by others, even if the resulting imagery is not explicit. Assuming the role of “canary in the coal mine” is both a cathartic process and a way to speak of things that I don’t see anyone else addressing in a way that I don’t see anyone else using. I enjoy the challenge of creating something with an initial modesty of scale, directing the process of realizing the growing concept onto larger surfaces, engaging people from many demographics by using site-specific methods, and being a participant in the gallery installations that can be enjoyed by others.