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The Dilettante

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

It’s no secret I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet with the fine art world culture. Some of it is rejection based and never feeling good or interesting enough. Most of it is that the majority of it is just a fucking joke. The little experience I’ve had in exhibiting at established fine art galleries has been incriminating. The owner is typically some alcoholic trust baby trying to prove to mommy and daddy that even in their mid forties, they should continue to financially support their failing gallery. Because what they’re doing is the Lord's work! They’re changing lives every day! Excluding The Hammer, and The Whitney and those staple museums. The few gallery owners I’ve actually had a respectful, normal interaction with are drug dealers. They use the gallery as a front. They don’t take art or themselves too seriously.

I’ve had collectors of mine introduce me to “major gallery owners” and I watch their eyes glaze over the minute they take one look at me. The disrespect is like nothing else. No eye contact. Absolutely zero basic human manners. The funniest part is that I’m not out here shoving my business card in their face, and pulling up a painting of mine on my cracked iPhone screen to promote myself. I was doing just fine before I met you tonight, and I’ll do just fine once we wrap up this exchange that we mutually want to end.

I imagine it’s quite a bit like being a struggling actor or a model. The artist enters their domain and they have free reign to tell you everything that’s wrong about you personally, physically, and why your work is a joke. I’ve been told everything. “I’m too white. I’m too young. My whiteness is triggering. My story isn’t tragic enough.” I don’t get it? Do I have to make up some over the top story about how I’m a refugee and I flew on the back of a bird to get into this country and had to use my blood and tears as paint because I wasn’t privileged enough to purchase paint? I’m not making light of refugees, but my god! These people fetishize their struggles in such a pornographic way to sell their work to rich people. I find it to be somewhat patronizing to the artist, their story, and their work.

We’ve all met one at some point. “The dilettante” The woman with the hideous bob hairstyle. You know the one. Flat straight as an arrow sheered bangs placed way too far up the forehead. The artsy, chunky, tribal earrings and jewelry. The thick cat eye glasses paired with an oversized expensive looking scarf and a Chanel purse. It’s her uniform. She always looks like that. She’s acquired some kind of a made up accent with a slight British effect. Yeah, her. Whenever she shows up to the event someone nudges you to whisper that she’s the wealthiest most powerful of all. People making clowns of themselves to catch her eye and seem interesting. I’m obsessed with this woman. I have been for years. Before I knew what the word “dilettante” meant, whenever I was on an airplane, or in a subway free styling with a pen and the back of some program, I’d be drawing her. She’s become a staple character in my imagination. She’s evolved over time, but that A-line hair has stayed stubbornly in place.

I was watching this brilliant film on Netflix with Maggie Gyllenhaal called “The Kindergarten Teacher.” Spoiler alert, but she plays a failed poet who ends up being a kindergarten teacher. There’s a little boy in her class with harrowingly pure poems. She steals the poems written by the boy and reads them at her little coffee shop poetry reading group. This guy she’s kind of carrying on with spots it and calls her out. He said something along the lines of “You’re not an artist... you’re nothing more than a dilettante.” Best scene of the movie. Her face after he used that word. The way he said it sounded like such a harsh, nasty insult. Like, he may as well of called her the C-word. That word stood out to me and I’ll never forget that scene. “Dilettante” has become my favorite new swear word. I only pull it out when needed and deserved.

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