Answer the questions, question the answers

I am in the process of starting an art career and subsequently I am applying for various programs to help with that objective. But I inevitably find myself a bit stymied by the program applications which include questions such as: ‘How does your artwork reflect your world view?’ or ‘How does art impact your life?’

It is a little like asking how breathing helps you arrange tasks in your day.

I’m not equating my being able to create artwork with being able to breathe, although some artists might. For me, artwork and oxygen occupy two completely different levels of importance. Creating art is a positive force in my life and without it I would be unhappy, frustrated, and lonely. My mental health would greatly suffer and I think I would end up obsessively arranging the utensils. And the rest of the world would miss out on some cool stuff. But I would still be alive – unlike what would happen if I had to do without oxygen.

I think part of my problem with the questions is I don’t believe that a few words can give them a better sense of who to include, or not include, in a program than the resume and samples of recent artwork. The questions are essay style and the answers subjectively assessed. Does Pfizer ask scientists on a job application how important the Bunsen burner was to their development as a scientist and hire them based on the answer? I think not. They get a resume and transcripts, look the documents over and if the applicant meets the requirements for the position HR calls the person for an interview. No questions about the applicant’s feelings about isotopes.

Sometimes to add to the complexity of the application process the art program question generators add a word limit to the response. Something along the lines of ‘Explain, in less than 150 words, the impact that French Impressionist art had on the development of subsequent artists including yourself.’ What? Surely the Great God of Jokes is pointing and laughing at me now. I’m not sure I can even adequately explain breakfast in less than 150 words.

But despite all my complaining, the art program applications aren’t nearly as perplexing as the job applications I filled out when I was younger and a lot of my employment opportunities ended in dead-ends. For example, at the walk-in quick print place (minimum wage, full-time, and saturdays mandatory) a question on the application asked ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ What do you say in that circumstance? An honest answer would have been, obviously, ‘Not here.’ For another job, at a small and possibly forgotten chain pharmacy running the front cash register (meaning the counter where you buy gum, not narcotics), the question was ‘What qualities do you possess that will help you succeed in this position?’ Answering honestly … ‘Well, I live really close by so I should be on time most days.’

Art impacts my life. It just does. Way more than running a cash register but not quite as much as oxygen.