• Jamie Hankin

Temet nosce

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

Apple Blossoms, 2018

I didn’t get a job I really wanted. I wanted it because it would have utilized my strengths, while giving me an opportunity to learn new things. The employer is considered to be prestigious, so some of their prestige would have rubbed off on me, perhaps.

But, as much as I tried to convince myself afterward, the interview didn’t feel right. I’m always honest in interviews, thinking that it’s better to be yourself than have to try to remember which character you’re supposed to be. I felt the same way when I was sitting on the other side of the table, conducting interviews.

I walked through the halls from HR to the interview site and looked, looked at the people and the art and the environment, and even though there was a veneer of diversity and inclusion, I could hear the voice in my head saying, “they are us, and you, Jamie, will never be included in them.”

I had the same experience at a gallery opening over the weekend. A chic big city gallery has opened a branch office in the small upstate town in which I live. Whenever they have an opening for their new season, the gallery invites the town residents, “neighbors”, to the gala, along with the hoards of the art elite that are the majority of their clientele. Buses are chartered to bring press and literati from the city. Our local tiny airport, normally home for little single propeller hobbyist planes, has big private jets parked along the tarmac.

Few of my neighbors bother to go anymore. They’re not wanted, or certainly not included. The art they’re meant to admire is hard to understand, on an intellectual basis, and the “haves” are not interested in sharing their secrets with the “have-nots.”

The art of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is nothing new, of course. I’ve been in this situation, had this feeling many times over the years. This system of integration of new art forms and ideas has been around for a long time. Artists do “outrageous” work to get noticed by galleries. Galleries show this work to stand out from the expected, the commonplace. People gawk at the spectacle and are outraged, until something more outrageous comes along, at which point, the work is absorbed into the modern academic/museum lexicon, often with a “title” that lumps similar works together.

Politics, justice, sexuality and equality or the lack thereof are all subject and object of these statements, often presented from the point of view of the oppressed or injured, in an effort, I always hope, to illustrate that perspective to those of us who have not experienced that particular injustice. Somehow, maybe it’s just me, the presentation devolves into fomenting guilt and placing blame and the haze of discomfort obscures the investigation.

Back to the job. I’m an older, white, heterosexual male, raised with all of the privilege that goes along with that status in today’s society. While I may have unconsciously used that status to my advantage in the past, it’s nothing I’m either proud or aware of. In today’s social climate, this status puts me distinctly in a category of outsider, transgressor and pretender. The scarlet letter is affixed to my cloak. A leper in the workforce and a reactionary in the art world.

Whatever happened to just being good?

Temet nosce: Latin. Know thyself.

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