Wise Wednesday - Robert Rauschenberg


As an art student, I have been collecting words of wisdom from peers, tutors and other artists and role models for a while now. So I thought I would publish them here instead of just having them scribbled down on small post-it notes scattered everywhere around the studio. This way I will keep them collected and it will be easy to find them when I am in need of an encouraging push or thought. 

I thought I'd start with a note from Robert Rauschenberg. A handwritten note on the interdisciplinary role of the artist. Rauschenberg was an incredibly productive and versatile artist constantly crossing borders of both medium and subject matter.


Borders, limit, labels, focus, personal voice. Words I quite often struggle with, some more and some less. As art students, we are encouraged to experiment to find our own way, our personal voice. I feel I have come a long way in finding my own voice compared to when I started on the degree. But I keep struggling with the idea of labelling and how it can be limiting. Am I a painter, printmaker, photographer, animator, sculptor or mixed media artist? Interdisciplinary artist? Am I a portrait painter, a figurative or abstract artist? Do I have to make up my mind? Do I have to choose ONE focus? Why is that important? And for who is it important? Professor Emerita Kristin Congdon from University of Central Florida explains it clearly:

Labelling helps a writer, curator, scholar, educator, or arts facilitator focus on a particular cultural group, worldview, or historical era. It gives context to an artist from an unfamiliar cultural group and can help illuminate an artist's message. But it can also box an artist into a limited space.

I fully understand what Congdon means but from an artist's point of view, labels can be really difficult and often limiting. I completely agree with the words of Rauschenberg. When I create I want to feel free to work something out and try different solutions to my problem, in any medium I find suitable. Not be thinking of labels or if one way will fit a commercial market, brand or latest Instagram or TikTok trend. That is just exhausting and not for me.

For me, art is a way of thinking and by limiting myself to ONE medium or ONE subject matter I would be limiting my thoughts. What´s the use of art then? 

List of illustrations:



Art has no borders ... statement (n.d.) Robert Rauschenberg papers. Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Archives, New York . At: https://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/archive/art-has-no-borders-statement (accessed 25/02/2023).