I think I’m done with the art world. But I swear this has a happy ending.
I’ve been grappling with this for about 2 years now. The thought of letting go of the career path I’d invested so much in has been unsettling to say the least. Painting began to feel awful for me. So many toxic ideas floating around my head: I have to make a coherent body of work that makes it easy for dealers or collectors to understand and sell/buy. I have to do what dealer X wants me to do and also what dealer Y expects of me. Nevermind that it’s conflicting feedback…
Thing is, coherent bodies of work are boring and usually contain one good piece with 8 other copies of it that suck. That’s just for lazy art collectors… the ones that only care about making money from my work (which is not going to happen anytime soon). And having art dealers tell me what to do is the surest way to kill my interest in making anything. Who would want to paint someone else’s ideas?
Then there’s getting ripped off and lied to. But we won’t get into that.
My very last show was, creatively speaking, the most successful. My ideas manifested in 3 or 4 distinct ways. I loved that nothing was obvious, nothing was handed to the viewer, nothing was made to be easily digested The pieces were moving and alive, which is what counts.
One collector told me he didn’t understand how the images were connected. I thought, “Good!” Finding what each piece had in common doesn’t take THAT much work on the part of the viewer, and if you’re not willing to put in the effort, then you’re lazy. I usually put weeks and months into my paintings, not including all of the pre-production of staging photo shoots, digital editing, travel to locations, canvas stretching etc. Asking for half an hour of contemplation isn’t above and beyond. It’s called being engaged. Not engaged? Then my work wasn’t for you to begin with.
So I’m stepping out of it. I’m done busting my ass pouring my guts and my soul into paintings to have them sell, in the very best circumstances, for less than minimum wage, and then wind up in storage only to be damaged. I’m done having dinner with collectors that confront me about the meaning of my work. I’m done hearing about how they gutted the price of one of their favorite artists and scored their trophy for pennies. I listened to one collector brag about how she hung her drawings up on her metal wall using magnets. My god.
I have had support… I’ve had some very good people support me. Maybe that should be enough, but sadly it isn’t.
And now for the happy ending: I’m painting again… everyday. And I mean REALLY painting… making images that I really care about, that are coming from the right place and for the right reasons. I wondered if painting would ever be exciting, mysterious, or gratifying again. It is, and I firmly believe it has to do with taking a leave of absence from the art world. I know now, after some experience, that my best work is made in solitude, without anyone in my head giving me their feedback. It’s like I’m back in high school sitting on my bed with a pencil and sketchbook, drawing or painting for hours, enjoying every minute of it. No agenda, no thoughts of selling the work, or getting reviewed, or expecting external validation.
I rock, my paintings kick ass, and they’re ALIVE again. Successful work is always animated; they’re vessels of intention, exploration, and emotion. I can feel when they don’t work at all, when they do nothing, when they’re dead on arrival.
I have no idea how I’m going to talk truthfully about this new work. I’m painting mania, my hallucinations, and my adventure through bipolar disorder. I HAVE to go there, even if it doesn’t sound marketable. That’s the story in them, that’s the place — a dark and uncomfortable place — that they’re born and live. And I’m so happy, after so long, to fully embrace this.