We often do not think of artists as having leadership qualities. Their profession is not inherently based on team building and consensus. In fact, they often invert the values we traditionally assign or desire in our leaders. They do not seek to create a shared vision around a project and they do not model the way for others with the goal of leading them. However, great artists challenge conventional trends by preserving their artistic integrity through authentic expression of thought regardless of outside pressures.
I am currently reading a biography about Paul Cezanne, a 19th century painter whom some have deemed the father of modern painting. Despite numerous objections by “The Salon” and the general public most of his career, and never quite fitting in with his fellows in the Impressionist Movement, Cezanne remained dedicated to his artistic instincts and values. In fact, it would have been easy for Cezanne to conform to the styles of the day and been considered “successful” by his contemporaries. Yet, his desire to preserve his artistic integrity challenged the status quo and gave birth to modern art, paving the way for artists like Picasso and countless others. He is someone I consider a leader, not of men and women, but because he pioneered a new artistic form by maintaining his self-credibility.
I try to apply Cezanne’s dedication to his own artistic integrity in my daily life, which often puts me in the minority of conventional thought. This is rarely a comfortable position to be in and it is easy to give in to various pressures. However, I must challenge myself in seeking original solutions to projects and problems, not for the sake of individualism, but because preserving my self-credibility requires it. When my values are challenged in the name of conformity, I must look to men and women like Paul Cezanne, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marina Abramović, and Cameron and Kati Mills (to name a few). I might not always agree with what they do, but their unwavering dedication to their art, free of the confines of systems, is a value I strive to emulate in my life. I do this not with a goal of being a leader, but to maintain my self-credibility. Only when my actions align with my values should people consider me worthy of leadership.
Davin Diaz, Producer & Director, Candy Mountain Studio. http://youtu.be/lsWcw5nfLps
Thank you Heather for your tireless support. Thank you John Roach for fine-tuning this rant into a cohesive essay.