How Can Art Be "Indulgent"?

Many times I’ve heard people accuse of artists of being “indulgent”, of only concerned with their own egos and not with those who will view the art.

As if this is a criticism at all!

If the artist does not indulge his own ego, there would be no art.

The artist is fundamentally committed to his aesthetic vision, which remains incommunicable to everyone else. If being “indulgent” of one’s artistic ego is narcissim, then I declare all art to be narcissistic. After all, what does the word mean except love of self? And how can the artist not love his own vision–he is, after all, spending countless time and effort to make it a physical reality.

Therefore, I react with a mix of amusement and indignation whenever people criticize a piece of art as too self-indulgent of the artist. Self-indulgence of aesthetic ego is the beginning of art from which everything else proceeds. If the artist is to be faithful to his own vision, then he must first overcome this concern, or else it becomes paralyzing.

Of course my own thinking on this matter presumes an almost inseparable gulf between the artist and his audience, at least in the creative stages. Appreciation, if it happens at all, will almost seem accidental, because it is the not the primary, and perhaps not even the secondary concern, for the artist as he puts his vision in the material plane.

But then again, I also happen to believe that a truly authentic life is by definition one of solitude.

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