I just randomly stumbled across this collection of WPA-designed posters at the Library of Congress and, just… wow. Every item in the collection is cool, ultra modern, progressive, clear and concise. Almost all of them have something to teach about good design. I even love the bad ones.
This wonderful essay about artists and work deserves to be passed along with minimal comment, but I can’t help myself so I’ll offer two brief points.
In this case, first, it is actually illuminating to read the comments beneath the article. One of the commenters, “S. McClure” From Madison, Wisconsin, observes: “why must art be remumerative? Why must it be a profession? Perhaps it is an orientation that translates lived experience ‘into something rich and strange.’”
Which is very well put, S. McClure. From someone who spends his days working for someone else rather than creating, thank you.
For some reason, second, we decided in the twentieth century that a person could be only one thing. We decided that a person must be this one thing passionately, and that it must wholly consume them. We decided as well that if a person could not or would not submit their all-consuming passion to the logic of the marketplace, then they are a failure. Is this true? Is it fair?
I think there is a deeper intellectual history here wrapped up with the Earthly and Heavenly callings of Protestantism, the atomization of modernity, and the all-consuming fire of the market, but I’ll leave that for a more capable scholar to consider.