Lately, I have been reading artist statements from fellowship recipients, residency recipients, prize winners, etc… I see this theme, a common thread amongst them and I start to think…no wonder folks don’t want to talk to us. I keep seeing this language, this verbage used, a plethora of “catch words” that grasp at some pretentious end result. “Transcendental, metamorphosis, blah, blah, blah…” Is that what juries and academicians want to hear? I would be exhausted of these art and academic buzz words. How can an artist statement stand out in a see of multi-syllable words? I vow that my artist statement will not look like an eye chart! I am a believer that the art, in whatever medium, should speak for itself. If my paintings can command your attention, then my mission is satisfied, regardless of what mumbo jumbo my artist statement spouts off. I’m speculating that the jury needs to know why I painted the man pink and what drives me to, basically, do what I do. I don’t have a sob story. My parents fed me pretty well, my clothes were clean, my dad coached my t-ball team, gave me the Heimlich when I was choking on a butterscotch, and I had perfect attendance in both the 3rd and 4th grades. I never slept in a subway station and don’t have a debilitating illness. I was a cheerleader (please don’t tell anyone!). I don’t know what I have transcended, hurdled, morphed into…..I just know that there is no place for me except in front of an easel. When I paint, my soul is full and when I am finished, I can smile at the end result knowing that my brain and my brush created it ( or I can make a mad dash for the jug of gesso to erase it from history before Ryan sees). I did not go to graduate school because I am tired of owing people money to tell me things I already know (or could see on youtube) and I have worked as many other things for paint money BUT above all else, I AM AN ARTIST. Enough said.
There are many things in this life that don’t make much sense to me. Upon further analyzation, I’ve come to the conclusion that when something seems blatantly nonsensical, money is usually to blame. So- I am a public artist as well as a painter. Public art affords large budgeted projects, grants that can help grow your studio and can be responsible for community revitalization. I subscribe to several databases that give me all the public art calls from subscribing entities. As I peruse them, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend. Ninety percent of public are calls are for sculpture. Sculpture is great and lasts for centuries (see the Romans…) but I think the lay public (government employees and business-owners) see sculpture as the only available means to a public display of creativity. There are many types of public art. Ryan and I specialize in murals. Though the shelf-life of murals is limited they, can be great attention-getters and be updated or preserved every few decades. Public art can be functional and include seating, traveling installations like photographs on vinyl banners, light displays, mosaics and landscape installations. I truly hope the trend turns toward diversity as to discourage isolation of public art as a solely sculptural-based medium. My second unsettling discovery…I peruse job openings locally just make sure there isn’t something fabulous I’m missing. I have a degree in both studio art and graphic design so if one is unyielding at the time, I can rely on the other. I notice all the job openings for graphic designers fit Ryan’s and my experience to a T…until you reach the bottom of the list where the employer sneaks in “web designer.” I don’t claim to be an expert on graphic design qualifications or , by any means, anything web-related BUT I did not have to complete web design courses to graduate. I always assumed that a graphic designer and a web designer were two different animals. I understand that many folks may crossover and learn both- just for an extra punch on the resume. What I don’t care for is that employers are beginning to lump the two together into some hybrid super-techie, graphic beast. “Well, you have some fantastic package designs and promotional designs, you’re hired….wait, you’ve never designed a web page? Never mind…” So, the question is raised…she employers recognize the difference or should schools start requiring web design as a course to graduate? In the end though, I’m sure it all comes down to one less person to pay and provide health insurance for…
Taken at Moody Gardens rainforest biome (2011)
I recently read a blog written by an “art publicist.” I’m guessing she is like the pharmaceutical rep of the art world, introducing collectors and galleries to her contracted “product.” She writes epistolary-styled posts (in the form of letters to artists). This particular one urged artists to remember that they are, in fact, artists despite what jobs they do earn “paint money.” She told us that we are not waitresses, sandwich-makers or construction workers, we are artists and challenged us to get off work, pick up the brush, or whatever medium appropriate, and create. This is all well and good in the world of theory but in practice, it is not as easy. I know for many in my chosen creative field, the jobs they work for paint money take too much from them. When it comes to painting, there isn’t much left behind to fuel the creative fire. This travelled along a tangent to another pressing issue that Ryan and I discuss frequently, freedom. Why are we, as human beings, forced to work at jobs we hate just to survive? I saw an interview with a successful fellow last night who lived in a Volkswagen Bus for several years in Hawaii because it seemed like the thing to do. Steve Jobs packed a bag and travelled through India after dropping out of college. Why do most of stick to the rat race? Does it take a truly revolutionary individual to just say “F&*k it!” and do exactly what they want? So we work, we punch someone else’s clock; we make money, essentially, for some suit we never meet and get up the next morning to do it all over again. We do this to pay the mortgage, rent, water, Dr. Pepper, ibuytoomanyshoes.com, car-i-can’t-afford, insurance in case someone slams into us (or vice versa)… the list is long and ominous. Have we chained ourselves to this fate of always wishing we were somewhere else, doing anything else, creating? I am just as guilty as the next person. I love STUFF. When I learn to NOT love stuff, I think I will be free. Then there is the number I feel at some point we will be forced to tattoo on our foreheads, the credit score. So, I’m in an apartment in a city I hate AND OHHH, I can’t leave because I’ve got another 9 months on my lease. I bought a car to help me feel like like less of a loser and now I would really rather pack my backpack and head off to Europe. I surely can’t take that overpriced SUV back to car dealership X and say,” Here, you can have it back.” In the real word, we call that “REPO” which leads to big drops in the credit score ( a golden number that subsequently determines your self-worth and right to exist). So, I work in a job I hate to pay for the crap I thought I needed but can’t afford, have no time or energy to paint and dream of better days when I can paint, in a studio, uninterrupted by stupidity in a place I love. Where is the answer? I think it lies in our priorities…which most definitely need some rearranging.