Breaking the mold

Thoughts on the definition of authenticity through the work of American authors and artists.

In her book The Lonely City, Olivia Laing profiles four artists who (to varying degrees) experienced and documented loneliness. About Edward Hopper, she writes:

“By the 1920s, he was making a name for himself as an authentically American artist, stubbornly sticking with realism despite the fashionable tide for abstraction filtering in from Europe.”

This determination to follow his own path, despite what the rest of the art world was doing stuck with me. I find it interesting as a definition of authenticity, as much as individuality.

It’s a sentiment echoed in a quote shared recently in Documentally’s newsletter:

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

Jack Kerouac

The key word for me in this quote is ‘yield’. I take this to mean that if we follow trends, or are swayed by the opinions of our peers, then in a way we are giving up a part of ourselves. And in doing so, perhaps we lose our authenticity.

Authenticity has become a bit of a buzzword of late, and I’ve been trying to unpick my understanding of it. This reflection is the start of it, I think.

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