7/26/07

artists and galleries and insight

Artists lives. I am always reminded in such unexpected ways how little I ever knew about an artists' life until I became one myself. I know more now than I did but each artist it seems does things a little bit differently. The two things I've noticed about the artists I've known is this: they either want to be in galleries or they don't.

The ones who want to be in galleries who aren't, seem afraid of the whole thing. They talk about it but never make any real attempt at it. They make one call but don't follow through. There isn't much assertiveness. They might avoid the whole art scene altogether and claim contentedness and an almost buddist aire of being satisfied that they make art for the sake of making art. Period. Or, they slave away at little farmer markets/fairs and wonder why they aren't being 'found'.

Then there are the gallery artists. Keep in mind I have only been in one gallery for any extended time (I have had work in other places short term), its a small community and most people keep to themselves. From where I stand I see two types of artists. There are the ones that come and go. Their work is in there for one showing and then you never see it again. Really good work from what I can tell but no sign of them later on. What happened? I didn't sell work until I had been in the gallery for six months so what else could it be? Perhaps no one was even interested in it? Did the artist not keep calling and bugging and finding out whatever they could?
Then there are the artists who have been there and will always be there (or so it seems). They show up (or not) for the openings. People already know them and they may or may not be surrounded by talking heads all night. Their work appears to never change on a substantial level and no amount of talking to them gleans much insight. They all seem grumpy and not too willing to share anything insightful or personal. Do artists ever help each other or is it as it appears...survival of the fittest?

Which leads me to my rather astounding insight to my own ignorance this week, that being I have no idea what I am doing anymore in regards to my art. I get it, I get that I am not going to make it the way I am making it. It is hard to say if I would be happy if I earned enough money through galleries....I can safely say I doubt it. I say that based on what I have experienced so far which until I am no longer in a gallery I probably wont talk about. I also know I cannot blame others for things, I am the master of my own ship and if I don't like the course and can't read the map I still need to find out how to get there.

What do I love about being in a gallery? Well having a place to show my work and selling it. Duh. In the beginning it felt exciting as I was getting attention and feedback. I felt like they were interested in what I was doing and I felt like something was happening!

It doesn't feel like that anymore. There are two owners and one assistant. It's awkward for me to hear accolades from one about a particular work while another lets me know they don't like it. How am I supposed to feel good about my work being in there? Is the honeymoon over? Feels like it. Maybe I just don't understand what a healthy relationship with a gallery is supposed to look like. I no longer feel like I can drop by or call because they are always so busy. I'm on my own now in a way, make the work and bring it in and have a nice day. Maybe that is the way is is supposed to be. I have no idea. Maybe they aren't supposed to be the cow tit I nourish myself with....maybe I am supposed to go figure it all out on my own. It appears that way so what is there to cry over?

Which leads me to what is next. I can't really imagine having work in a gallery out of state. Aside from all the logistics that would lead up to that actually happening, I think it would freak me out having my work somewhere with strangers and not knowing whats up. I've heard so many bad stories about art getting damaged/lost/stolen/locked up when people go out of business....things just not going well. It's my life savings in 'inventory' and how do you just hand it over to a stranger? Aside from that, I have to ask myself is it satisfying enough to sell art this way? Having work 'out there' is a strange thing. I like having it all online and dealing with my sellers directly. I love packing it myself and taking the time to get everything ready and good to go and sending emails with confirmations and getting great feedback from the buyers. It feels personalized and rewarding. Something I haven't gotten in galleries. I am lucky to get a name, which does me no good anyhow, and didn't get to know the experience of the piece being sold in the way I do when I sell it myself.

And is the gallery the end all be all for an artist? Is that really IT????? I can't stand that I haven't found another way to do it. I know artists sell on ebay and etsy but from what I can see the majority of them practically give the work away. I can't see selling my work for $100 when it cost me that just to have the photography printed and laminated!

So this is where I get stuck. If I were 20 something, if I had a spouse to support me, if if if. It's just me and I'm at the end of the road right now. Maybe I need to jump the block fence, run across the yard with barking dogs, leap over bushes, run through back allies and just keep going. Maybe I should be a greeter at Wallmart and slowly lose my mind. Maybe I should grab my credit card and go out with a bang. None of it sounds fun. Yet to be continuously told by people that I need to get into more galleries, to go to New York etc. is not something that calls to my spirit. It frustrates me that getting into more galleries seems to be the automatic pilot answer to my problems. Am I just totally naive and hopelessly stupid if I refuse to do that? Am I just screwed?

7 comments:

Daphne said...

Holy Shit Paula!

Those are some heavy feelings that you expressed. And you sound as though you've backed yourself into an emotional corner...

I have know career advice. None. It sounds as though your online method is the best approach for you, despite how slow it is.

Two thoughts:

1) You need to be able to talk with other artists, in person perhaps,to share your enthusiasm and your frustration. Aren't there any art groups out there? Women's art groups for example...something that doesn't require your devotion but which you can involve yourself in occasionally when they're doing something interesting (artist's talks, etc...).

What about the shows that are at more casual art galleries, where you bring your work to sell, solely for that one show...it's painless from what I have experienced...

2)Could you advertise your site in some high end art/design/architecture magazines?

Granted I imagine the cost is prohibitive but I know that I am constantly looking up artists based on work that I've seen in interior design layouts (in magazines).

I have a third thought. When I was still practicing interior design we had a few binders/pamphlets of artist work.

If you focussed on high end firms, even just a few, I can see your clocks creating interest.

self taught artist said...

thanks for the ideas. I have tried local artist gatherings...at the risk of shooting down everything, I found them dull and antiquated. From what I know of the others, they are following the same path as everyone else and it honestly doesn't light my inner fire (some were more gossip time than anything else). I dont mean to sound like I am mightier cuz I'm not.
I have tried those weekend show things...its vermont...its vermont...its vermont. I can't compete with $20 paintings and nick nacks. I dont have a tent or the gear needed and frankly they are boring as all git out.
I have also worked with an interior design place they liked the clocks but wanted everything cheap cheap cheap. They kept my work for three weeks to show someone and it took several calls and emails to even get an appt to get my work back. After all that I find that they hadn't even started the job (building spas).
Advertising in magazines I know nothing about, only have heard how expensive it is. I should check into it.
I know I should push more and be more aggressive (?)...I find all this so frustrating and unpleasant though. It makes me question the process and my life. Do I REALLY want to spend my time this way?

Daniel Sroka said...

It makes me question the process and my life.

Well, yeah. I agree. Being an artist is a tough gig.

Regarding galleries, I'm with you. All career advice pushes the importance of being in a gallery. But I've learned that the majority of artists in galleries do not make a significant income from it. Even the ones who doing everything right and getting attention. Not that galleries are bad, but they are not a way to make a living. For the artist, they are more about getting validation. And you know what? I feel validated enough on my own, thank you. Is there another path? I hope so, and I hope we figure it out!

Daniel Sroka said...

P.S. Buying ads for art is very expensive, and it is very hard to evaluate its success.

self taught artist said...

i hope we figure it out too. i promise if i do i will share it with ALL OF YOU.

Tori said...

Never compromise your ideals...your attitude and devotion to your art will pay off..I just know it.

Hang in there.

Shelby said...

I know not the answer. But I agree with and understand tori - "your attitude and devotion to your art will pay off...I just konw it." Here here.. yes it will. Give it time.

I know I know - time is a precious commodity, as is money. It ain't easy (this life thing).

I say it again tho - hang in there.


sending hugs.