We're now approaching the Albert Pinkham Ryder School of Infinite Accumulation. The agony is insupportable, which is why I'm blogging instead. The sad thing is that I have the next painting completed in my head; I think it will be fun, I think it will be easy, but I refuse to start painting it until I've solved this one. Piggish of me. I hope this is just a transition, and not The Shape of Things to Come.
Last week, I did my taxes, of course. (Well, maybe not of course--you outlaws know who you are. :-) :-P) It shocked me all over again to see how little paid work I did last year, particularly in the first half of the year. Granted, I was injured, I was shell-shocked, I was writing a business plan, and I was preparing for my first solo show in Manhattan. But the record of my blithe inattention to financial facts was still astonishing, unless you take into account the fact that at the back of my brain, there was a little voice saying "A solo show on Madison avenue--you're bound to sell something."
The lesson has been learned--I will never again show my work anywhere unless there is a person with both a vested financial interest in promoting and selling it, and a proven track record in doing so, in charge of the exhibition. A person other than myself, that is. I'm making exceptions for BWAC and studio tours, since I did sell work that way last year, and deadlines are good for me. But Small Works Exhibitions with $40 hanging fees are Right Out; likewise competitions with jurying fees, hanging paintings in people's storefronts so that they can sell coffee and inflict their bad video art on your friends, and schlepping large paintings across town to 'alternative' spaces, such as restaurants and loading docks. It was fun while it lasted, but I can't afford it anymore.
If I've heard it once, I've heard it nine hundred times--"It's good exposure." After a decade and a half of empirical observation, I've come to the conclusion that this is false. Most people are incapable of seeing art unless they are led by the hand to The Place Where The Art Is and told, "This is art. Look closely. It's valuable." It doesn't matter whether the Art is good, bad or indifferent; if it isn't in a museum or gallery, 95% of the people looking at it will see wallpaper.
You get paid for hanging wallpaper.
Now, I don't want to sound crass, bitter and materialistic. Of course I make art for the joy of it; but part of this joy has to do with communication. If there's nobody on the receiving end of this communication, I start to get droopy, not to mention paralyzed with terror about paying next month's bills. This may be part of the reason I've been somewhat blocked in the last few months.
So I've been wondering--how do you keep working with artistic integrity, assuming that a reputable gallery will never be interested in showing you, nobody will pay for what you create, and few people will ever understand what you're communicating? Is there a way? Why not throw down the brushes and go hang wallpaper for a living? Or just blog yourself into oblivion?
The answer seems obvious; make sure that each day is complete unto itself. Get up and bike to the yoga studio. Shower. Fix an awesome breakfast while reading The New Yorker. Book and work on a couple of clients. When the studio beckons, clean it, and put on some very awesome music while the sun streams in the windows.
Most importantly--be honest with myself about what is working and what isn't. Don't quit until the painting satisfies me, because it's not guaranteed to satisfy anybody else. Don't make "small stuff to sell" if I don't feel like working small; don't avoid doing a weird big painting because I don't think anyone will 'get' it.
You'd be surprised at how often the weird one is the first to go, anyway.