3 Artists Who Found Success Through Vulnerability

artist table

In a 2013 opinion column for the New York Times, Tim Kreisler, author of “We Learn Nothing,” famously wrote: “if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” Although he was describing the struggle of revealing your flaws in a personal relationship, the same remains true for artists and their art.  To find favor with your audience, you must let them know you.

Making yourself vulnerable—especially on a large scale—is one of the scariest endeavors an artist can undertake, but also one of the only ways to create a real connection between your work and your audience.


Here are some artists who made vulnerability work for them, and how. 

1. Marina Abramovic

A notable performing artist since the 1970s, in 2010, Marina Abramovic revealed her most vulnerable work to date.  Entitled “The Artist is Present,” the performance piece featured Abramovic sitting in silence and making eye contact with whomever wished to sit with her. The performance went viral when Abramovic’s former lover, Ulay, decided to participate.  The interaction left them both silently crying, and cemented “The Artist is Present” as one of the most influential performance pieces in modern art. 

2. Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer has made a thriving artistic career through revealing some of her most personal thoughts. Known as Truisms, these phrases have been projected on the sides of buildings, engraved into benches, and used in political campaigns. It’s hard to make the private more public than that!

3. Jackson Pollock

When Jackson Pollock debuted his famous drip paintings, few people knew what to make of them. The chaotic artworks were a physical embodiment of the pent up aggression he felt.  Unable to make himself vulnerable though words, he poured out his emotions through his art, solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest expressionists to ever live. 

Most people associate vulnerability with weakness and do anything possible to hide it. Everyone has soft points, though—that’s what makes us human. Tapping into that vulnerability will allow you to create a connection with your audience that will stay with them long after their experience with your art is completed.