Meditating on a youthful fixation led me to reconsider what it means to be an artist.
You are correct about everything here. I've been pondering the same thing but about writing and the reactionary current that wishes to return to an older age of the novel or short story, but without innovation and forward momentum the result is just pastiche.
In my case I was in the process of buying a cheap property in Umbria, head full of ideas of some kind of Balthusian return to the figure, essentially a pastiche twice over. 9/11 put a stop to the scheme, saving me from myself. Scott Bunn, the guitarist, calls this "reaching out for someone else's results." At best this makes you an inferior version of another artist. We all start out in imitation, but just as is said so well here, you finally have to accept yourself as a product of your time and figure out how to make art that makes you feel the way your heroes make you feel, without copying them.
This is all very true. Artists shouldn't be self-conscious. Most go with the flow which makes sense because they are going with the cool kids and where the money is. This is understandable. If you go self-consciously against the dominant high culture this can lead to bad art too.
Any thoughts on Odd Nerdrum? They got him for tax evasion and he spent some time in jail I believe. He even wrote a book about kitsch being okay. Pretty funny. He had a group of followers but they couldn't recreate his genius in my opinion.