Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Artist as Career Choice

Control Freak, Cynthia Cusick; [detail] Comfort in Discomfort, Crimson Duvall;  All Is Not Lost, Lyndsey Fryman

My co-conspirator, friend and colleague, Crimson Duvall, graduated a few years before me from the EKU program and then went on to receive her MFA from UK. She, Lyndsey Fryman (whom I'll be featuring a bit later) and I collaborate on group shows, selling work and mostly keeping ourselves focused on our careers. We have become a little coven of three, meeting and plotting our next moves, exchanging information and generally, keeping each other on track. One of the big roadblocks to a successful art career, however you choose to measure it, is that without that supportive network that a school atmosphere readily provides, it's very easy to let the whole thing drop by the way side and watch your artistic vision wither on the vine. Classes create discipline and structure and also provide opportunities for intense feedback in critiques. Once you're out, there is this vacuum of external context and you, yourself, have to make up the difference by motivating yourself, critiquing yourself, raising the expectations on yourself. It's hard to make that switch, often because the biggest failing of art schools and art programs is the total lack of practical professional preparation they provide. No information is given about tax issues, how to approach galleries, how to market your work or even the importance of marketing your work. No discussion is held about losing direction and motivation once you graduate. Often, the only viable career option discussed regularly as you work your way through college classes, is not to produce art but to teach art. Get your MFA! There's an opening for an adjunct professor at ________! And so on.
     There is certainly nothing wrong with the option of teaching art, in fact, I think in today's culture in the US, more art, and particularly, art appreciation, needs to be taught, not less. However, for every one who goes on to become an art professor, there are those of us, Crimson, Lyndsey, myself, who need to become an artist, to make art, to pursue it as a career choice, to inspire others, simply by doing the work every day, watching us produce, think, execute, fail, and get up again. And let's not box art in by insisting that it must be college educated. There are many, many, many self-taught artists making extraordinary work. Suddenly finding meaning in a piece that initially intrigued and moved you simply because you found out the artist holds an MFA from a university that you think is prestigious means, to me, that you didn't really understand what you felt in the first place. But that's another posting....
     As I have a blog, my friend, Crimson launched her blog. I suggest you check it out. Understanding the artist sometimes fleshes out our understanding of the work.

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