Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Makes It So Tedious

I am currently involved in a conversation on Linked In.  The question posed was, "what do you consider a successful artist?"

I am excerpting the dialog between myself and another person on the thread for the purpose of highlighting the immense irritation it is to network and meet people who call themselves artists, because so many of them have no idea what it is to consider art and its broader impact in any socially relevant, critical way.

I first answered thus:
A successful artist is an artist who creates work that is worth looking at -- meaning there is something to think about and reflect on. You could be totally cash poor from making what you do but your sales needn't define success.



Dude (Name withheld):
I totally agree with Krista's first sentence "BUT" I have never met another artist that relied solely on sales for income that was always cash poor from their sales and thought they were successful. No gallery owner can be in business or a gallery sales person have a job if they cannot sell the art


Me:
You are talking about two different things in what appears an attempt to make one point. You should maybe define what you mean by success and then refine the discussion from there. I, for one, would never consider Damien Hirst a successful artist -- but I don't consider him an artist so the case for adjectives is moot.
Dude:
Krista, I would like to know if you have ever been a professional artist and if so why not now. You may consider yourself an art critic but that doesn't make you an artist, I don't go to an art critic to see if my work is good or not, I talk to other successful professionals, I go to art festivals and gallery's to see what is selling and then adapt my style if necessary for a new trend to add to my work, then I look at my sales and net profit and smile.
It's easy to talk the talk with out walking the walk and pick and choose from a multitude of artists to suit your own personal taste.

Me:
I don't consider myself an art critic. I also fail to see why only an artist's perspective is to be valued in the discussion of art and its greater value to society more broadly.

This is exactly the practice that I find insincere and possibly anti-art: "I go to art festivals and gallery's to see what is selling and then adapt my style if necessary for a new trend to add to my work, then I look at my sales and net profit and smile." That states you are not in it for what you create but will be a chameleon to cash in on a trend. But at least you have clarified what you mean by success. From my perspective I call that a failure. But what do I know? I have no right to a perspective on the arts.

Dude:
You are absolutely right your opinion doesn't count for much, as for being a chameleon I suggest you look at yourself as it is you that preys upon artists with your ego as to what is or isn't good, you pick and choose what works for you to make a profit.
As for keeping up with a trend, you are a fool not to adapt your talents as to what the public wants as well as doing what your heart desires.
Your art critic resume may impress a 7th grader or an up and coming artist that has no clue to the direction they should take but to a proven professional it's a joke .
You see unlike you I have walked the walk, every inch of it to be where I am and my advice whether or not used by another artist is sincerely given based on real life and experience to help them along the way.
I read your profile and experience, hmmm you took a course on Gallery
management but your work history is a visual store merchandiser ? LOL
You have spent most of your career showing off what is the new trend for a 
"home" furnishing company and yet you try to criticize me for adapting some 
of my art to trends in the art world ! What a piece of work you are !! And now 
you want to show the world what it needs in art ?
Idiots should listen and not speak but it seems that isn't the case with you .

Second Dude (Name Withheld):
(Dude), If I get this right, I think you are saying that an artist should judge their success criteria more on sales and modify their work to sell well. That is commercial success, no? Isn't that approach more of a designers role, all be it a creative and skilled one, than an artists, or perhaps that's just a UK perspective.

Dude:
All I am saying is that we as professional artists "must survive" so if your sales are slow  then why not adapt your skills to what the public wants but in your own creative style, no matter what you create it is your passion and skills that make it unique!
For example lets say you lived close to the ocean and you paint solely seascapes and have been successful and satisfied with sales but now you have moved to the mountains and are still painting seascapes but your sales are way down because the people are buying the landscapes of mountains and valleys, can you as an artist not create a wonderful work of art of the mountains, it is still your creation and talent but you have adapted to live a more comfortable life.
(Withheld), you are correct, art is tough to sell these days, people are more concerned with buying gasoline and food and just don't have the disposable income they once did. Art is always a sensitive topic, why because we devote our lives to creating and want our work to be accepted and bought, "THE highest compliment you can pay an artist is to purchase their work" because then you know it means enough to someone that worked for their money to give it to you because you have created something they want in their life ! Do you think Michel Angelo would have been the great and successful artist he was if he had painted and sculpted in the style of Picasso?

Me:
If you looked at my profile you would know I took a course in curatorship AND I managed a gallery at a university -- that is a non-profit environment and open free to the public for viewing and educational programming. That gallery did not and does not sell any work or arrange the sale of any work. My duties there included assisting any number of faculty with Q&A when they held class in the space, acting as faculty aid during regular class times, acting as educator/organizer for students in the gallery course, as well as facilitating and teaching programs to primary and middle school students as requested by the art education faculty.

I do not make a profit on art, I volunteer as a docent in an edcuational program with a well established museum in the contemporary arts. It is a non-collecting museum so the focus is always in the most present concept of contemporary and they choose to show emerging and mid-career artists rather than established personalities -- so I know a little something about the current art culture. They do not host retrospectives, nor do they sell any of the work on exhibition.

It is likely (and decidedly so) that I will never make a profit on art as I am seeking to work in an outreach capacity with a community justice or ecological organization. But you read my profile so you should know that.

Working as a visual merchandiser is a thing I am good at and like and it pays bills. It also fits in with a broader definition of visual culture and has many duties in common with gallery management. And I am still seeking work as a Visual Merchandising Manager because it is easier to get a job in that capacity than find one in an arts institution. (And also because I like using the skill set needed for the job, which includes things like having to plan changes for an 80,000 sq ft space three weeks in advance based solely on a shipping manifest and truck schedule. Or adapt plans once they are set in motion to comply with safety and zoning regs. Or trouble-shoot floor changes for one location while being on site at another.) Working in such a position would also grant me more free time to develop my own art and research projects.

I suggest you get your facts straight about a person before attacking them.

Frankly, all of this is how I define success for myself generally but also as it pertains to working in an arts capacity.

Dude:
As I said you know little about art and I need not waste my time and energy on a want to be social art diva when I can hopefully help fellow artist that are creating and trying to make a living.
As far as I'm concerned this is the end of the subject with you.

(That last comment made me laugh.  Oh, people are funny...)