Most importantly, if you can at all avoid it, don’t be normal. Strive, burn and do everything you can to avoid being the industry standard. Even the highest industry standard. Be greater than anything anyone else has ever dreamed of you. Don’t settle for pats on the back, salary increases, a nod-and-a-smile. Instead, rage against the tepidness of the mundane with every fiber of whatever makes you, you. Change this place.
“If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”—Jon Krakauer (via alesthetique)
The conventional model for how an art school should be structured is so common now as to be virtually academic: offer a bit of this and a bit of that; don’t take a position because the art world is in a constant state of flux; whatever you do, don’t specialize. This has resulted in a jack-of-all-trades condition that makes most art programs indistinguishable from each other. If you travel from coast to coast, from one MFA program to another, you can enter their doors and become convinced that you haven’t moved at all. On the surface this seems like a good idea; the art world has been in a pluralist stalemate for over thirty years and shows no signs of ever changing. Why should an MFA program take a position?
The simple answer is that all art making takes a position. The very act of picking up a brush is a declaration. Choosing to make objects in a digital age is taking a stand. Believing in anything is potentially progressive. The relativity of pluralism has created a critical crisis where all things seem equal, but does anyone really believe that? The real joy of art is not found in watching someone make an acceptable version of a patented school, but rather it is in the iconoclastic, the anomalous, and the unexpected. In effect, it is doing precisely what you shouldn’t be doing.
The New York Academy of Art enters this critical crisis with a firm belief that when young artists are given the most extensive set of visual tools available and a complete awareness of contemporary culture, they will make important contributions to visual culture by doing what many people believe is no longer possible, making great art. It has been suggested that there are no more great movements to be had from art making, that the great contributions of the last century have been exhausted. This has an “end of history” ring to it that is both dispiriting and contrary to cultural evolution. Great art is being made and will always be made by artists who refuse to adapt to the accepted norms of their era and instead forge ahead with work that is masterful, critically aware, and deeply contrary.
We present the graduating class of 2012 as a prime example of what can happen when talent, intelligence and willful determination meet as a counterpoint to cultural relativity.