My previous post led to a sudden off-topic schpeel. I couldn’t decide if it was worth posting; feeling like some things are important to say but not knowing if I was saying them.
A quick cut, copy and paste, for those who might ever mull over the same things and should find a shred of solace knowing that one other person out there has chewed on the same questions;
On exhibiting in unknown territory;
Being so far away, I’m aware that I regard the art ‘scene’ in America as a whole, not something with various factions dictated by tiers, geography and focus, like any other- which I only do due to the sheer scale of what appears to be going on. Consideration of sub-divisions might make my head turn in on itself. There’s too much information for me to hold on to.
Nevertheless, it’s a daunting and exciting thing to be invited to be a part of it given that I have nothing but first email impressions and an online presence to base any career decisions on. And I’m aware that any gallery has only my online content to go on, so it’s flattering when they decide I’m worth bothering with. It’s therefore always a relief and pleasure to watch shows unfold from my tucked-away e-vantage point.
…even while I type I know that this is the sort of content that would send my collector-eyes rolling and mind wandering because my vaguely explained feelings towards exhibiting internationally are, I’m aware, not interesting- but the longer I do this I realise that we artists don’t talk enough. Part of that could be because people tend to shout more when they’re unhappy- and a brief exchange with artist Allison Sommers on twitter last year made me realise that it doesn’t need to be that way and we can change that simply by singing the praises of galleries that we like.
There’s a fear that a frank appraisal of galleries and your experience could backfire, but the market has seemed to change in a way that has afforded artists the opportunity to not just sit back and ponder, but do real business independently while they consider their next move, making that ‘move’ less pressing and more of a fun endeavour. And a million years ago, before twitter or any other means to fire a “psst, what are they like?” message to a fellow artist, I passed up opportunities purely because I didn’t feel that I had a grasp of what a gallery’s focus, roster or indeed premises might be like. There was this underlying fear that one wrong-step could just end everything I’d worked for and it was not borne of being neurotic either;
Indeed, this seed was planted by the hear-say from people who knew more than I did. Without going into specifics, the threat-driven advice turned out to be more than wrong: from a gallery that is no-more waspishly warning me of one that is now flourishing. It was advice that wasn’t sought out and surprised me in its nastiness, but at the time I couldn’t see why anyone would be motivated to slam a smaller operation and thought that they were looking out for me. Maybe they thought they were.
Nevertheless, I think that being told that simply working with the wrong person could lead to being iced-out by other galleries entirely was something that stayed with me at the back of my mind, which has led to much anxiety over something that passes as quickly as a month-long group show. Stupid, right? Fucking daft indeed.
I don’t network, I’m not a regular fixture anywhere other than the gym and on my sofa. I talk to people who seem nice online and that’s just about it. Any information you know seems to always err on the side of giggle-worthy gossip and stepping back, it’s always a bit Storm in a Teacup. Last year though I read a frustrated post by a gallery owner who was exhausted with watching artists make all the wrong moves for their career, despite trying to help them. You know, ignoring the advice of people who know, to their own detriment. And while I didn’t know exactly what was being alluded to, what with being in another country and part of a different scene and working mostly alone, there was a sentence that rankled me because it smacked of the sort of threat that aroused such baseless fear and anxiety in me as a young artist all those years ago;
and all I could think was “Oh yeah? So do artists”
What it’s led me to think about more and more is the fact that Want is greater than Need when it comes to the back-end creating bit and without any enjoyment, shit just falls flat. There’s no better way for me to say that.
Thanks to the handful of artists who I’ve approached with questions ranging from shipping advice to how to fix a warped canvas, right down to their experience with various galleries. They always turn out to be non-scary, empathetic human beings with more or less the same fears and concerns as the next artist. I’ve also been knocked-on-my-arse shocked at how readily they share their knowledge too and how ready they are to laugh, because that’s important. Laura Keeble, Eelus, Arth Daniels, Julian Kimmings, Giles Walker and Beejoir, thank you for the top-quality chat and for making me feel less and less like a mouse sailing a milk bucket in the Indian Ocean.