There is an expression that goes, "an artist wears many hats". Though this doesn't apply to just visual artists, but to writers, performers, and composers as well.
It seeks to explain, I suppose, how an artist's process is not just a process of conceptualization and production, but a lateral process involving several ways of thinking and doing.
At one time, the artist is the creator inspired by the muse or duende. At another time, the artist works on his or her pieces as a single-minded editor, a polisher of forms.
But I also think that, beyond the level of creator/worker vis-a-vis the hat, an artist is also a perceiver/thinker vis-a-vis lenses.
It's no longer a new thing to think that artists (indeed, people in general) perceive or see the world in different ways.
Even the way we react to certain events will vary--- though we may agree on our anger or joy, there are different degrees for each response.
Artists as theorists and philosophers, whose minds are ever abundant with new ideas, almost have this need to "adjust one's lenses" in order to see a picture clearly or in a different light.
This exercise of adjusting or changing lenses, of shifting perspectives (if and when necessary) is what I think leads to new ways of presenting the objects and images of the known world.
As for the unknown world (as we are wont to entertain the existence of such), there must be also a kind of lens that is special yet accessible, if we seek for it.
I also think that these adjusting, changing of lenses are symptomatic of the post-modern or the contemporary. Artists now play the role of creator and philosopher.
Though I must add that as early as the advent of modernism, there were writers and artists that were creators as well as philosophers.
With hats and lenses, we always seem to seek for the "real thing" though what we come up with might only be the substitutes of those real things.
It reflects our appetites--- we often speak of going "organic" though what saturates our market are derivatives or food laden with preservatives.
What, I wonder, could be happening here? Somehow, with the plethora of artists in the world, not one work of art, in my opinion, can be described as truly great or "life-changing."
The spirit of substitution, I think, can also be seen in our architecture (what the writer Michel Houellebecq described as something that blends in the background, bland but functional) and in the over-all spirit of our time.
But I think that this is so because the artist wants to identify once more with society. To be functional or, harsh as it may sound, be relevant.
We have poetry written inside our trains, read to us through speakers. Architecture, day-by-day, tries to be aesthetic and easy to use at the same time. There is a rise in the culinary arts, in fashion. There's public art, site-specific installations that take art out of the gallery and into public spaces. With this, the artist needs to partner with communities, groups or institutions.
The danger in this, however, is the inevitable exploitation of the artist by corporate and political entities.
Though I also see this in a positive light: with the contemporary artists' return to their communities, they identify themselves once more as part of a larger scheme. They are no longer individuals adrift in their solitary islands and here a purpose, a new worldview could be, might be, at hand.