What Matters More: The Art or the Artist’s Name?

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Years ago, when she was in high school, my sister worked at a tanning salon where counterfeit purses were secretly sold. Eventually, the salon got busted and had to stop selling them. And, even though my sister had nothing to do with the purses, I remember asking her, “Why would people pay money for something fake—and often cheaply made?”

And she rolled her eyes at me. “Because of the name. It has Louis Vuitton or Gucci all over it. It seems important.”

That was years ago. But the memory came back up last week when I was talking to a good friend who’s struggled to feel confident in her business.

“Maybe I have to be like this one coach,” she told me, “who takes credit for everything. Every time you have any change in your life, she immediately says it’s because of her coaching. And she drops it in subtly. Like, ‘Because I’m such a great coach, we were able to go so far in this call.’”

I was reminded of the fake purses. Is it the artist’s flashy name sprawled across the art we want, or is it the art itself?

I look around my home—at my favorite painting, at some stunning photographs. And the artist’s name is always there. Subtle, in the corner, out of the way of the piece. It doesn’t want to disturb the piece at all, but it’s certainly there.

It’s not that these artists don’t want credit for their work. But it seems to me the signatures are often subtly inside. In the style, the subject matter, the technique, the use of color. The Brand Energies that we can’t help but be.

Not necessarily the large writing to let the world know that it’s important. That we’re important.

I think about my own work. Certainly, I love what I do. Certainly, I think I’m brilliant at it. But I work with Energies that are way bigger than me. And most of my job—the hardest work that I do—is getting out of the way to not disturb the work.

Sherri knows I couldn’t care less whose name’s on what. Recently, we discussed writing a book. And I said, “What do you want to be? Do you want to be co-author? Do you want me to be main author? Do you want to write a foreword? You let me know.”

I often try to refer to it as ‘the work’ or ‘our work,’ even with Circlers and Masterminders. And the deeper I go into it, the less I care if it grows to gazillions of people. I mean, I’d love to get this work out there because, in my experience, it’s life-changing. But I’m just grateful to get to get up every day and do the work. And let it teach me how it wants to grow.

If I get to be an artist at the exact level of business I’m at right now forever, I wouldn’t be too unhappy about that. If few people ever know my name but get to experience the work abundantly, I’d be even happier.

The work speaks for itself. And, of course, I’m the humble guide—the only person who can fully break it forward. I get that. I know that. It’s why it came to me versus someone else. I have the exact skills, abilities, and experiences to bring it to life. Like every artist for his or her own work.

But I wonder why we so badly want those big names sprawled across the work we buy. Or the work we sell. Perhaps, as my sister suggested, it’s because it seems important.

Because perception often matters more than authenticity. Because true artistry is often overlooked for something flashier.

Would we buy paintings that just say an artist’s name in huge letters and obscure the work? Would we listen to music where an artist says her own name over and over the track?

Some people are brilliant at discovering chefs and restaurants that will one day be huge. That’s not me, unfortunately. I have a horrible knack for finding places that I feel are true artistry, but never seem to get the crowds others get. And I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get friends and colleagues to these restaurants.

Because, name or not, good art is good art.

And I just want to put my nose back to the grind and produce even more good art.

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