Tree of Wisdom

We think we have freedom, but do we really? Our choices are carefully curated, from presidential candidates to groceries. We have been conditioned to want what we have been given as “choices.” We are told to be happy with these choices. It will go easier for us. But most of us are trapped by a job we didn’t choose, supporting an economy that does not care about us, food that is filled with hormones and environmental conditions and a healthcare system that are literally killing us.

I have made it my life’s work to mitigate these factors in my own life (I’m self employed) but there is only so much I can do, when all my choices are made for me. I shop local and choose the hand made whenever possible. I eat unprocessed foods when possible. But even these choices are being made more difficult by the day. And that is all by design. Cities all look alike, with the same corporate retailers on every corner. All things quirky and unique are being marginalized by price point, delivery speed, and unnecessary regulations on small businesspeople. There is a uniformity that has emerged that is safe, comfortable and convenient. AI is going to make this exponentially worse. Soon we will all be content to live in our tiny virtual world, safe in our little cacoons, Metrix style, nicely out of the way for our handlers to enjoy the world’s bounty.

Even my “choice” to be an artist is made by others, who are heavily influence by a few people who determine the meaning of quality, when it comes to art. Yes, I’m “free” to paint whatever way I want. But artists, including myself, very quickly in their career are placed into neat categories. We upset that delicate balance at our peril. “My Market” has been determined by what has been most successful for me early on. We actually live in caste society. We get to be one thing and this is how we relate to others. Breaking the caste is a monumental feet. My brand is successful for me but probably not for you. If I change my approach to painting, I’d have to start over, building my new market from scratch, and losing most of my current earning capacity along the way. I’m happy painting the way I paint. And I enjoy experimenting with other ways. But there is an expectation in the market that I create like Robert Maniscalco. In a very real sense, I am not free. And I wager those of us who think they’re free, upon close examination, probably aren’t.

My identity, at least in terms of commerce, is that of a portrait artist. I have branched into other genres, but my market keeps me painting a certain style. I am known for my portait and figurative work.
From the market’s standpoint, this makes perfect sense. The market wants to invest in a known commodity.
So, how do I paint what I want without confusing my market? It is a very delicate balance, not easy to navigate. But the same is true for other “professionals.” That term professional evokes high quality, consistency, prolificacy, trust, value and integrity.
But to say you’re a professional artist is not very sexy. The market demands professionalism in a field that depends and on thrives on iconoclasm. There is a natural antipathy between professionalism and being an iconoclast. The challenge is we must somehow commodify what is priceless. Not many can be a great artist and a professional. I use this as an example of how none of us are truly, free. Even we “free spirits” are not free. I think the moment we realize just how not free we are, the higher level of freedom we can achieve. I’m talking about real freedom, the kind that happens between your ears.
What are the small and big ways I can assert my freedom? Knowing I am not really free is very liberating. For one thing there’s no point fighting for something that isn’t real. If I know the limitations of my freedom, the better I can understand the space within which I can operate. For many people that space is in deciding what channel to watch on cable. “Do I like America’s got Talent or the Voice?” For me, as an artist, I have endless choices of where my muse will lead me next. Fortunately my instinct for what I enjoy creating is aligned pretty well with what my market wants. Thats not to say there isn’t some tension, but I am very blessed to live in that sweet spot. And that brings me great satisfaction

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