Every once in a while, a very young artist will emerge under an explosion of popularity and a general ‘wow’ factor. We as artists mumble and rub our feet in the dirt, not knowing exactly how to react against a child anomaly in the art world. I believe that we are simply confusing the associations attached to the artist in question. An artist is an artist, no matter their demographic. When artist’s submissions are juried for an exhibit, names are left at the door for the sake of fairness in adjudication. So when deciding the worth of work made by ‘genius child-prodigy’, a very objective stance must be taken in order to detach the associations you as a judge/viewer have with the artist. Subjectivity is one of the largest foes and friends of art itself, so it is logical to assume that if it is necessary to judge an artist, each artist must be judged subjectively and individually.
Most recently, an artist of four years old is showing at a Tony Chelsea Gallery in NYC. Her name is Aelita Andre and she was first on the news at a tender two years old. She paints hyper-abstraction, some recognizable objects but mostly color swatches and splatters. Despite the rumors that her parents push her to paint in a certain way, it is also said that she is talented, that her art is a recognizable attribute to prove natural endowment. In the subjectivity of art, can there be such a thing as a ‘natural ability’ to become famous? If this girl would have born to the same family 70 years in the past, would her work leave the refrigerator even if she tried to exhibit? Being a successful artist means being in the right place at the right time around the right people, and it seldom has to do with the art itself. Artists at an adult age are painting similar pictures to her but selling them for thousands less because they were not in her situation. Does that make them less important to the movement they are contributing to? I would suppose it is up to us viewers to decide their place in history. Malcolm Gladwell said that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become a master at a skill, which furthers the idea that it is impossible to be talented at art because it is something to be worked on and perfected. Aelita Andre is the currency of the art world, that is to say, her worth is based on the worth given to her and not her intrinsic value.
Aelita Andre and her parents in the studio
I was impressed by the work of child prodigy Akiane. Her surrealist paintings of ethereal universes touch on the fleeting imaginations and philosophies of our own world. Her canvas is always balanced and harmonious, and her realism is unmatched by some painters that I have seen myself in galleries and museums. However this is nothing new to the art world. From renaissance times until the industrial revolution, many artists set off to begin their careers at ages 7 and above. Rembrandt was 14 when his portraits started evolving and he took an internship to being his career. Andre Masson was 11 when he entered the Académie Royale des Beaux-arts. He spent the rest of his life, starving himself and doing drugs to get the same effects he could when he was younger through automatism. The world of art is a fickle mistress just as any other adult field of society. Should six year olds be given a corner office with a junior vice president’s responsibilities? Should 4 year olds be exposed to the cutthroat art world? I think patience is the more prudent option, until the artist him/herself can decide the impact of their art in the world.
Akiane with one of her highly publicised works
Artist/contributing writer Dustin E. Parr, emerging art historian and fine artist, focusing on defining the role of artists in the chaotic times of contemporary art.