not a genius

I know to some (and even to myself at times) I might appear to be complaining or just angry. As I look back at my postings the last month I see I am going through some sort of growth and I am in the middle of it so cannot see where it will lead. In the meantime I feel like I am processing and granted not that many people read this stuff or comment, it still feels important for me to write it out.

About a week and some odd days ago there was the annual opening at the gallery. I went and was having a conversation with someone. Said person had seen the commissioned piece I recently finished/sold and commented that I was a genius. I asked what he meant and he said 'well you got someone to buy a rusty old metal shelf for $1,500!' I took it as a compliment in the context of the conversation, but when I take it out of context and think about that sentence it reminds me of the attitude I seem to feel from people who aren't into the art scene. On the one hand that seems like a lot of money but what people don't seem to realize is this: I spent an entire month working on that piece. That was my job, no other income was made from doing anything else. The client set $1,500 as her limit otherwise I would have charged more because the gallery got their % which was close to half and I spent $230 and some odd cents in order to get to that point of the finished piece. I wouldn't call that genius. I would call that barely surviving.

It's strange, I go out in the world and look for scrap or stop to ask if I can take a picture of farm equipment and I can just tell from the conversations about money and life with these people that they think I am really profiting from whatever I click at or bring home to use for baubles. I have nothing. I own nothing and make next to nothing but many people seem to think because I am an 'artist' that I make easy money.

This is something for me to overcome. How I react when it comes to prosperity or lack thereof. How strange it is living in such an impoverished looking land, driving around in a 2002 car that I bought when I was making 40K a year (which I still haven't paid off) that still looks sporty and nice and yet I am, in reality, much poorer than the people that own the filthy home and acres of land.

I think this is why I struggle too when I see art going for next to nothing on ebay or etsy. The clash that occurs in my mind is what I am told by people who seem to know something about art (meaning they say if you price your work too low then no one will take you seriously and you devalue yourself) and what it costs me time & materials wise to get something made. Oh, and not being a complete newbie but not being 'established'. I don't know where I belong. I look at my list of buyers from day one, most of them have been art collectors. Some of them quite serious art collectors with possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in art to their collection, another with pieces from big names like Rauschenberg and Johns. So I get it, Joe Blow is less likely to want my work. But Joe Blow does buy my work and likes it even if they can't afford it. Where is the happy medium? Who, how.... what am I targeting?

Every time I stop making art and concentrate on how to or where to sell it I flail about, hitting my head against the wall and exhaust myself. Then I recover and say fuck it and just make art and ignore that other problem (selling it). It is an awkward dance trying to balance two things that seem to clash. I can't keep living like this, that's all I know.


Daphne said...

When someone I know once asked me how much I would sell a certain piece for I gave her a ball park figure and she was so impressed that she decided that she wanted to be an artist more than ever.

It didn't seem to occur to her that it didn't mean that I would manage to sell it or that I would manage to make enough work in a year AND sell it all to make it a viable career.

I didn't bother to explain it to her...

self taught artist said...

great point! you've just reminded me of all the comments I have heard that were similar.