I have learned over the years that there are two very distinct sides to being an artist. Often you are required to paint or create work that you are completely unattached to and unemotional about. On the other hand, there is a side to art that is most important and most relevant to us. It's the very personal side of our work that is what compels and motivates us to keep working, creating, and sharing our unique visual voice. Both of these sides of being an artist are acceptable when compartmentalized, but when the lines blur has always been an internal struggle for me.
I'm sure most artists would love to have the sort of career in which you paint what you please with supportive galleries and collectors that consistently nurture and validate your work. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. If you have chosen to make art for a living, then we all must find whatever methods and paths necessary to do so. These days, with the domination of social media and other venues to showcase your art, it is easier but certainly not easy.
I decided to write on this topic because I feel all artists -- whether actors, writers, or visual artists -- have moments when they ask themselves the question "Am I compromising my artistic integrity?" Ultimately, the decision is left up to the artist. I respect and whatever an artist decides to do, because in the end, it is about the supporting the vitality of the artistic community at large and pushing their own career forward. That requires commitment, courage, and sometimes compromise.
I have been lucky enough to call Asheville home for the past three years. We moved here not knowing a soul, but were immediately touched and surprised at how warm and welcoming everyone was. A sharp contrast from the cold aloofness that comes from living in larger cities. I truly felt right away a sense of support, community, and love. At the time of our move, my son was only a year old and having that sense of fellowship and support for our family was a lifesaver. The stress of being a first time mother can be so overwhelming and, not only I, but my son will be forever grateful to the kind souls that have crossed our paths here. My family and I will be moving very soon back to Atlanta, Georgia. I am excited about many aspects of this move, but also quite sad to leave Asheville behind. A bigger city will offer a lot more opportunity for myself and family, but I will truly miss the breathtaking nature, weather, and above all the sincere and wonderful friends I have made here. Looking bravely and optimistically toward our future, but leaving a piece of my heart in this beautiful town called Asheville.
I had a previous relationship with a fellow artist. We worked for the same fine arts publishing company. Of course, we both wanted to breakthrough as successful artists in our own right. Personally, however, time seemed in endless supply when I was in my 20s. That is where the two of us differed greatly. Every day, all day, the only subject in his thoughts was art. It was a singular focus for him. I was baffled by this intense level of commitment. For me, art would always be there and I had too many other things I felt like I needed to do. I truly felt like I wouldn't be able to accomplish all that I wanted to in 100 lifetimes. Things small and large such as learning to knit, cook, and reading new books to larger goals such as running a marathon, traveling, learning another language, and thinking about starting a family of my own. I must say my art career took a backseat during this time. I have been reflecting on this part of my life since a friend recently asked me where my ideas and inspiration originate from. I realized a lot of my ideas have stemmed from all of these non art-related experiences that didn't have any connection to art but are nonetheless present in my all of my work today. So, I do not regret the delay well into my 30s before finally getting focused on my personal artwork. Now, when I wake up, I understand exactly what my ex-boyfriend's passions for art was all about. Oh.. sidebar, I did run a marathon, traveled, learned to speak French, and have a beautiful family. Zero regrets!
I recently read a really poignant article that struck a chord with me. It was written by Debora Spar on the unrealistic goals that continuously pile up on women in today's world. Her point is that the demanding expectation on a woman today is "to be successful at home and work, sexy and sophisticated, perfectly coiffed, and eternally young." I think most of us are trying to achieve this unattainable perfection without even realizing it. I am sometimes a victim of this myself and wonder why I have feelings of underlying guilt and resentment. As women born of this generation, we know no other way. It's simply how a successful/happy woman is expected to be. All the pre-feminist responsibilities have now been folded into these new standards of work, money, success, and beauty. A double whammy. This post is not focused on art, but I thought it was an important subject. I have been working hard these past few years to create a career as an artist while still trying to maintain "perfection" in other areas of my life...and failing. In accepting that this idealistic myth of perfection is unattainable, I feel the breath coming back into my lungs. My life is not flawless, but it is mine. "Because if the goal of life is perfection, then we all, by definition, are destined to fail. That cannot -- must not -- be the plot."
I recently received an email from a follower asking me some questions related to Instagram. The questions were thought provoking, and they made me reflect on how important and relevant social and digital media have become. Below is our informal interview. If you're so inclined, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic! Look forward to seeing your comments.
1. Do you think that instagram is a new kind of interactive gallery?
Yes! For artists and creatives from all backgrounds, I feel like it is the perfect channel and format to put your work and creative process on display. You can exchange with and support other creative people while also being inspired yourself. And it’s an international audience, all wrapped up in a no-cost platform. It has been a huge help for me, allowing me to connect not only with other artists, but also galleries, companies, and designers.
2. How much do you think about how your instagram feed looks visually?
The material I use for instagram is typically what I am currently working on in the moment. As artists, we are lucky in that sense to have such a huge and constant visual library. Stylistically, I am very particular about how the work is presented and photographed. I think that is a given. If you spend time creating something, you want it to be presented in the best way possible to the viewer. I also tend to share along certain themes, my sketchbook being a major one. These are typically ideas and things that are inspiring me on the day. I think this keeps the feed consistent and turns into a more cohesive body of work.
3. Do you consider yourself a curator of your own online space
I do, and appreciate the opportunity to be in control of how my own “virtual gallery” is presented to the outside world. Instagram is my primary online space and, as mentioned above, each individual post and the collective feed are important to the overall visual story.
4. Do you think the future of getting your work “out there” is digital?
It has helped me tremendously, but I think supporters and people that are buying artwork still value the personal connection that one has when standing in front of a piece of work. Especially being a painter, much of the texture and nuance of a piece can get lost in a purely digital format. So, I still consider traditional galleries as serving an important purpose in the career of any artist. However, as a channel for finding and connecting with your audience, digital marketing cannot be ignored. It is a great tool and has allowed me to reach and connect with people that I never would have reached otherwise.
5. Lastly, do you have any advice for young artists trying to get into galleries.
In the last several years, more and more galleries are supporting young and emerging artists. There goal is to promote and support the sale of work that is more affordable and I think that has been a huge help for talented young artists coming into the market. Also, I would say never be shy or intimidated to share your work and get it in front of galleries. Lastly, it is definitely cliché, but persistence is a key element to success. If you persist, the hard work will pay off.