The Guardian (here) had a story about a Michelin chef with three stars who asked to be removed from the guide, and it got me to thinking about recognition and standards that come with it.
The report focused on the fact that surprise Michelin inspections could happen at any time, two or three times a year. And yes, that would be nerve-wracking – if you were a chef who cared about awards and recognition. If, on the other hand, you only cared about the food leaving your kitchen, it seems to me that the inspections, with their inherent judgements about “Is this good enough? Is this as good as it was?” would lose a lot of their power.
But who can be such a compartmentalized person? I’m sure they exist, and they may or may not be happy. Most of us, though, like a little outside confirmation that we are doing a good thing.
On top of that, art is often made better when an artist gets good feedback. Also, trying to push boundaries so that consumers of art are still amazed or at least entertained can be a good thing. Those consumers might be regular people who come to a restaurant or visit an exhibition or buy a book, but they also include critics. Critics who can be consumed by their own visions of what “art” should be, or critics who have a broad overview of the entire field and can make helpful comparisons.
Michelin stars or gold stars of any kind come with baggage, and it’s part of being an artist (or even a good consumer) to use those gold stars with care. There are some questions we must be asking ourselves about the star-givers. Why are they qualified to give stars? Do stars expand one’s fan base? Do stars attract a super-critical sort of fan who can poison our feelings about the art? Do the stars inspire us, or do they make us worry about our future output?
The balance is delicate – it’s like walking on a curb. The safe sidewalk is right over there, and the whizzing cars are on the other side. Walking the edge makes for a more interesting walk, I think. But it’s not for everyone. There are those who like to dodge traffic, and others who are perfectly happy on the sidewalk.
The big thing is to walk the walk, if you are a creative person. Just walk it in the place you feel most energetic and happy.