When art is a commodity, it ceases to be something that provokes, prods, and confounds and becomes something akin to a football game, that is, something with a quantifiable score. Thus, if you don’t conform to the likability mold, then you “lose.” The dubious “winner” is more often than not the palatable (but not mind blowing), a Cream of Wheat version of the artist.
It is vital to the growth of the artist to not allow the pursuit of commercial success (e.g. making a living) to interfere with the pursuit of one’s artistic vision. Sacrificing vision for mass appeal (the gaining of which is incredibly rare) does disservice to art. If the artists serves art, the favor will be returned, fulfilling the artist’s intrinsic need for expression.
As an artist, you must be driven by the need to serve art, not by the need to be admired by the many. The true artist serves ideas in the extreme; the “likable” artist compromises his resolute standpoint for adulation. Danger is exchanged for impotence. Risk is deemed too “risky.”
The likable artist falls into two categories: the milquetoast (Anne Geddes) and the false subversive (50 Cent). The milquetoast appeals to the fearful masses that wish to be soothed, canvas as Valium. The false subversive appeals to the “roller-coasterphiles,” those who wish to be frightened in a controlled environment. Both of the likable artists are non-threatening; neither are challenging.
The true artist is the opposite of this: unable to be categorized, challenging, and troubling. The work is fresh. It inspires, it confuses, it evokes emotion. It is not played on Kiss FM. It does not vacation at The Jersey Shore. And if no one likes it, still, keep going, keep going. You will create something of meaning, something of beauty. And if there is a mold, don’t just break it; shatter it, and scatter the pieces amongst the ashes of a million burned copies of Miss March.