This past weekend I was talking with my dancer friend about a film she’d recently seen (Pina, a tribute to dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch) that she was very enamored with. She said I had to see it, that all artists would benefit from watching it, regardless of what art they created. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Having read and benefitted from dancer Twyla Tharp’s universal perspective in her book The Creative Habit, I felt like I was down with the dancing crowd. I didn’t feel compelled to run out and see the movie, but sure. Why not.
To make her point, and because she had a captive audience, my friend whipped out her laptop to show me a few YouTube clips of the film. Okay, yes, it was pretty, and they definitely knew how to dance, and fine, they–OMG WHAT WAS THIS?! What were they doing?! The fluid movements and lovely down tempo beats! The sets! The costumes! IT WAS RAINING ON THE STAGE! The color and texture and framing and… holy crap, this was like watching a painting. I saw each scene much like I see the beginnings of ideas when I start a new piece. It was beautiful. I was downright inspired.
I love talking to other passionate artists. I love hearing them blather at length (as I do) about their individual loves and interests in art. I don’t even have to be familiar with their art to know why they do it. It’s a kinship. We speak a dialect of passion. Continue reading
I want to say upfront that this is just one story from my life, and not a commentary on the gallery system as a whole. My personal experience with “traditional” galleries has ranged from lackluster to unethical (and possibly illegal, but I’ll get to that in a second.) I do not believe they’re all like that. I’m very open-minded about galleries. I’ve simply had great success and enjoyment representing myself, and doing so is not a reaction to anything negative as much as it is a belief in doing something positive.
When I was starting out professionally, I heard from a number of people within the local art scene that I was ready for my own show. So I went out and got one. The gallery I’d found was up and coming, an offshoot of a more successful gallery nearby. The owner (we’ll call him Shawn) was an artist himself, and sold a great deal of work, all at higher end prices, with a pretty significant and growing following in the area. He liked my work, and immediately offered me a show. After securing a date, I heard from fellow artists that although his art “was a bit formulaic,” he seemed to be a fantastic businessman. The openings I attended in the months leading up to my show were lively events.
When I arrived at the gallery the morning of my own show to set up, I could sense a weird and unexpected attitude from Shawn. He was cold and unhelpful. He abruptly announced that I couldn’t use blacklights, a fairly integral part of my art, despite seeming enthusiastic about them a few weeks prior. He further informed me that I wouldn’t have access to half the space I was promised, because another artist was using it. When I firmly explained the necessity of the blacklights, he finally told me I could use a small room through a hall and in the back for this purpose.
I was determined to keep a good attitude about things. Continue reading
It’s easy to forget that our creativity needs practice. We often take artistic abilities for granted, because it’s just “been there” since we were children. Most of us are artists because it comes naturally. Sure we might have to learn discipline about the business aspects, but the art! Hey, that’s the fun part! That’s eeeeasy.
Until you hit a block. Then you spend each day staring at an empty screen or a blank canvas, cursing at the white space, convinced your career is over. The crying. The despair. Or maybe that’s just me. Continue reading
ast weekend I went to a concert of someone I’ve technically known since I was five, and despite the fact that she’s fairly popular, I was woefully unfamiliar with her music and had never seen her perform (unless you count living room karaoke.) It ended up being pretty incredible to watch, not just because the music was awesome (which it was) but because I was witnessing this person that I’d interacted with in a casual way perform as she does best, in her element, in front of her fans, in the spotlight. She displayed a great command of experience and talent in exactly the moment she needed to.
As artists, we’re familiar with this situation to varying degrees. Any time we’re at our own shows, or even doing something as simple as releasing a painting for public view, we summon all necessary skill and confidence into a fixed period of time in which we allow ourselves to be stars, to lead the room in a chorus of our own making. We understand the necessity of doing so, at least in short bursts, especially when we’re promoting something specific.
But what happens the rest of the time? Why do we tend to put our public selves into stasis when we’re not attached to the art? We still have a duty to be artists, which is doing more than making art. We have a purpose to live artistic lives, with intention and passion. Our lives should be as interesting and inspiring as our art. Being an artist is an action, not a title.