Authenticity can be difficult to achieve in the arts, whether you are a painter, a musician, an actor, a writer, a photographer or designer, the list of creative professionals this concept affects and is effected by goes on and on. Authenticity is especially difficult if you are a historian, collector or curator. Questions of who authored the work, when it was made, and its relationship to the culture it’s associated with abound.
And what if the originator isn’t in question at all, but quality of the work against said genius and their oeurve is in question? That’s a tough question too, but believe me I haven’t even addressed one of most difficult questions just yet. The one which I suspect most of you were leaning towards when the word first came to mind – how sincere, thoughtful, and genuine the output of the work is and whether the artist is demonstrating passion in their efforts. That question is one for the ages and something I struggle with too.
Feel like I’m writing a lot of nonsense already dear readers? That I’m going over your heads? That’s because I haven’t even touched the subject proper yet, and we’ve already uncovered a number of definitions and issues with the topic at hand.
This of course is because no matter what level of investment in the arts you ultimately have, the word authenticity itself is difficult to define and important to address in context.
But for the sake of fleshing out an argument, let’s take the definition which I indicated many of you were leaning towards to begin with. Merriam-Webster defines authenticity as follows –
authenticity – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
Now as an artist, a lover of language both visual and written, I thought it would be fun to run an exercise to break down the definition and build it back up again, in case there are some outliers in our midst. Here is what Merriam-Webster has to say about the words which make up the basic definition of authenticity, as it relates to the individual, in particular the artist.
true –being in accordance with the actual state of affairs
personality – the set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, etc., that makes a person different from other people
spirit – the inner quality or nature of a person
character – the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves
Now let’s add that definition back in, with a little more detail (my highlighted selections above) and see what happens with the results.
authenticity – being in accordance to one’s own emotional qualities, inner quality, or the way someone thinks
If you sit with that explanation for a minute, it gives a true picture of what authenticity means for an artist if they wish to be sincere with their work and marry that with passion proper. In fact, the words that help explain the word authenticity are composed of the same sorts of words themselves in their own definitions.
What that means for us is that there are commonalities and that at the root authenticity is about quality. Without proper quality something or someone no longer has worth.
Let’s put it another way.
You see friends, I have this theory that in order to be authentic, you have to know what you are made up of, what your personal experiences have been. Then and only then can you start to address your emotional qualities, your inner quality or nature, and the way that you think about life and then act upon it. What this means for you is that you are fully capable of changing the world and participating in it, but you have to sort out your doorstep first.
You are valuable, but no one is going to sell your worth for you, you have to figure it out first, begin selling yourself and become part of the global marketplace. Sure there are experts who can appreciate potential, but they know just as I do, that the experience of sorting yourself out is invaluable, and has to come from within.
We’ll touch upon the subject more in future posts (in all forms), but for now, I’m out of theories friends. Share this with an artist and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. See you tomorrow with something melodic.