In the edition of Janson’s History of Art that was assigned my freshman year, Lee Bontecou was one of about three women noted. She made steel-and-canvas sculptures that I loved, and exhibited in New York before I arrived. There was no word of her in my world until a retrospective at the Hammer in LA in 2004.

I don’t know if it’s true but I heard that an interviewer asked, “Why did you leave the art world?”,

She is quoted as saying, “I didn’t leave the art world. I am the art world.”

I love that. I and many of my fellow artists spent a lot of time feeling not quite real until some imagined art world authority recognized us.

A few years ago I was at the star-of-year colloquium for California College of the Arts faculty. I asked the guy sitting next to me what he did. And he told me about his art.
And then I told him about mine—at the time, shadows of horns. He said, “That sounds entitled.”

I recognized it as a jab. That I could presume that I and my work deserved a place in the world that—and this is the current nature of entitlement—that through an act of some kind of supremacy, it was entitled to some kind of special privilege or treatment.

In the case of art, the right to exist.

But here’s the thing. Some who make art are showered with value. Most are ignored. But the whole point of making art is to give agency. Art has no right to exist. It is an act of great arrogance to make what you want and to believe that it has a right to a place on the wall or in the conversation. Even your own wall, even your own conversation, as was the case with my colleague at colluquium. It is this kind of entitlement that art gives to everyone else. If this has a right to be here—when there is no evidence to support this premise— then surely you and whatever you might wish to make has as much right.

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No permission. No apologies.

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