Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING

Article excerpt

Bayles, D., & Orland, T. (1993). Art and Fear: Observations on the Peril (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING. Santa Barbara: Capra Press. 122 pages. (ISBN 0-88496-379-9).

Reviewed by Linney Wix Albuquerque, New Mexico

Art educators who wish to deepen their understanding of their own processes as well as the processes of their students during artmaking may find Art and Fear a thought- provoking companion to their teaching. The book is not written specifically for art educators, yet art educators are not excluded; the introduction states that the book is written "for the rest of us" out there making "ordinary art" which means "all art not made by Mozart" (Bayles & Orland, 1993, from the Introduction). The book is thus written for those of us practicing regularly in our studios who, in that studio work, experience fears in regard to our art and its presentation to the viewing public, be that public student peers or a visitor to a gallery. The book promises to be helpful for all art educators who find themselves teaching students with little or no art background; for instance, art educators are often asked to teach elementary education majors, many of whom have fears or hold romantic and paralyzing ideas about artmaking. The publisher's suggested cataloguing of the book's subject matter is: "I. Artists-Psychology. 2. Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.) 3. Artist's block. 4. Fear of failure." Although art education is not listed, the subjects mentioned are relevant to the responsible practice of art education.

I am certain it was no mistake that Art and Fear landed on my desk only weeks after I had assigned myself the task of learning to paint after many years of being a ceramic artist. Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING-the title caught my attention. In my new endeavor, I could easily understand the relationship between art and fear.

In their introduction, Bayles and Orland state, This is a book about making art. Ordinary art...Making art is a common and intimately human activity, filled with all the perils (and rewards) that accompany any worthwhile effort. The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar...This book is about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do...It is about finding your own work. (Introduction)

It is words like these that make this book a handy companion to anyone who has experienced the relationship between art and fear. Thus, here is a book for all of us who are studio artists as well as supportive witnesses for our students' work in the classroom. Here is a book for those of us who regularly confront our own fears about artmaking while at the same time working with students who must confront their fears surrounding artmaking. These are familiar fears and doubts: Am I good enough? Is this art? How will I know when I am a real artist? What does it matter what I have to say? The ideas set forth in Art and Fear are not new ideas; they are simply made public. In Art and Fear, the artist/artmaker and the fears inherent in this role are made human.

Bayles and Orland address difficulties in making art by taking the reader into the realm of practice rather than theory. Throughout the book, the reader is presented with ideas regarding the actual practice of making art in the studio rather than with theoretical discussions of that possibility. The book looks at the practical, as based in the studio, and manages to make the reader see that fears about artmaking are understandable fears-it is not possible to do work that matters without fear. For instance, why would artists not be fearful when art is about what has great meaning in their lives? The authors explain that, "...in making [art] you lay bare a truth you perhaps never anticipated; that by your very contact with what you love, you have exposed yourself to the world. …