Recently a couple artist friends and I were discussing the lack of appreciation of our painting on the part of critics, museum curators, and art professors, especially where figurative work was concerned. One even reported his work having been referred to as "...an anathema to critics but catnip to ordinary folks." The consensus seemed to be that anything which "sells" can't be good. And thus, the corollary to this being, all really "good" artists should be doing work that only critics can appreciate (but not BUY, of course), and that if "ordinary folks" liked it enough to buy it, then maybe it wasn't as good as they thought it was.
I've dealt with this before, but let me say again, these people operate on a whole different plane than most artists and 99% of the public. They see it as their sworn duty to try and "lift" the tastes of the uncultured masses to their own level, that being the "novel" and the so called "cutting edge" of art. And by and large, it's an honorable profession. Without them, there would probably be little in the way adult art education and little incentive for artists to risk anything more than tepid innovation. On the other side of the coin, they often seem stuffy, snobbish, and remote. The problem for them is, the more they succeed, they more they themselves have to rise to yet another higher plane from which to continue their efforts. Needless to say the situation CAN rise to the ridiculous and they can end up making fools of themselves in the eyes of the "ordinary folks" they so disparage.
What's an artist to do? Well, he can give up eating and move to their level. For some of us, such drastic action might not be a bad idea (in moderation of course). A more practical tactic would be to simply work on two levels. I've TRIED to do it for years. I paint to sell and I paint to impress juries. If I'm lucky (and particularly creative) a single work may, in fact, do BOTH. But it also means doing things that will never sell in my lifetime and things that I would never hang on my own walls. And this is where the artist gets caught between the two forces--the marketplace and the showplace. Almost without exception a professional artist's tastes are going to be well above that of "ordinary folks." On the other hand, few of us can merit (or afford) the label "cutting edge." This doesn't mean we can't strive in BOTH directions, hopefully without being torn apart in the process. If we begin to feel like a rope in a tug-of-war, then perhaps we just have to accept that in being a professional artist, it naturally goes with the territory.