Films for artists

Tonight I watched “Our City Dreams” directed by Chiara Clemente (here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyZA5qjK44E). I don’t remember where I saw the reference to this film, but I found it on Netflix. The five women artists who are featured in the 2008 film range in age from Swoon in her early 30s to Nancy Spero who had just turned 80 during the filming. With the exception of Marina Abramovic and Kiki Smith, I wasn’t familiar with any of the artists work. It’s also not work, for the most part, that I’ve had much interest in, but the film presented both the artists and their work in a way that kept me watching. The difference between the experiences of the older artists and that of the younger ones was profound. Not in relation to the work itself or their dedication to it, but to the obstacles they encountered because of their sex. I saw the history of the second wave of feminism in the transitions from Nancy Spero’s struggle to raise three children while still pursuing her passion for art forms that the establishment was mostly ignoring, to Swoon, whose work was already acclaimed and being supported through sales of her work. The musical accompaniment throughout was evocative as well, though I wished the credits at the end would go by more slowly, and that my television screen were large enough to permit my reading them. Particularly, there was an extraordinarily beautiful aria that I wish I had in my music collection. I would recommend this film to other women artists especially, but really to anyone with an interest in contemporary art. Chiara Celemente is the daughter of the artist Francesco Clemente.

More on Eric Fischl

Alec Baldwin, “Listen to This”, interviewed Eric Fischl on August 5 about his work, his creative process, and his book “Bad Boy.” You can listen to the complete interview (if you haven’t already, and if you aren’t full up on Fischl from my previous posts) at: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/2013/aug/05/. It’s nice to hear his voice and listen to him speaking about his work in his own words without editing. I particularly relate to the section about monetizing everything we do in this culture and how receiving money for art that one has made with love requires artists to translate that back into love. Do you make your art out of love? When you sell your work (you do sell your work, right?), does the receipt of money feel like enough to you? Have you ever sold anything you wish you hadn’t?

More on working for free

On a listserv I receive a member posted these guidelines from a blog she subscribes to: http://www.shouldiworkforfree.com. Good for a laugh, and though specific to designers also true and good for helping you think through both your choices and what you are being asked to do in any kind of creative field. Members on this listserv have been in discussion for several days on the topic of working for free, the assumptions behind some art calls for entry, donating work for fundraisers, and the general  business of being an artist. If you haven’t been thinking about art as a small business in which you are the CEO, CFO, advertising department, writer, editor, typist, accountant and the entire creative team, WHY NOT? Does your plumber work “on spec”? How about your doctor? Grocer? You get it, don’t you?

Donating your art for an auction or fundraiser

In regards to agreeing to donate work for purposes of a fundraising or auction: the gallery I work with in Cincinnati, Malton Gallery http://www.maltonartgallery.com has a policy that any artist they represent not do this. Sylvia Rombis, the gallery owner, has the best idea I’ve ever heard for dealing with these requests.

If you really want to support an organization or cause with your work, she advises you donate a GIFT CERTIFICATE in the amount of your choice which the buyer can use to apply toward the purchase of work from your studio or from the gallery that represents you. This way, the artist has the potential of acquiring a collector, the collector sees more of the artist’s work than just one piece, the venue gets their monetary donation, the gallery is assured that the artist is not undercutting their own efforts to promote the work by lowering its value, and the collector gets a tax deduction for their contribution. Most (in my experience) venues that ask for artist donation do not know that the IRS allows artists a deduction ONLY for the value of the materials used in the production of their artwork. As if we keep track of that – or even can!

Artists are approached too many times to count and asked to donate work with no recompense for themselves, their work, cost of materials, etc., with the implied promise that the exposure for them will mean future sales and the acquisitions of future collectors of their work. The (very) few times I’ve fallen for this, even one venue in which I received 50% of the sale (still well under what the pieces should have sold for) and in which the organizers, also artists, ran a continuous loop video with each artist being interviewed about his or her work, this NEVER resulted in any future sales. The couple who bought my piece just recently opted out of my email notices about future exhibits. Furthermore, anyone who has participated in one of these fundraising auctions puts their work in competition with such things as baskets of gourmet chocolate, wine, golf lessons, and the like. Those who attend snap these things up, sometimes for ridiculous amounts, with the art either a distant afterthought, or with the clear intention of getting something valuable for next to nothing.
You have to ask yourself if you want to promote that attitude toward your work and, by extension, the work of other artists.

Are you getting paid for your art?

How many times have you shown your artwork at a  venue where you bore all of the costs of framing and publicizing your show, in addition to all of the costs and labor to produce the work? Non-profit venues get state money through their State arts boards, but most have no particular incentive or expertise that will help further your career. When you show in their spaces (and alternative venues, such as coffee shops and restaurants), you are enhancing their reputations or businesses, but often only adding a line to your resume. How frequently have your shows in these sorts of venues resulted in sales, introductions to prominent critics or collectors, or in some other way given you more than the “privilege” of gracing someone else’s walls at your expense? Our “Art Culture” asks us to compete for the honor and to feel grateful when it is bestowed on us. Is there another way? I think it is an important issue, one that many of us have pondered, often with increasing anger and feelings of helplessness. Go to http://hyperallergic.com/75549/how-are-artists-getting-paid/ to read a very informative (with additional links) article on Hyperallergic on ways that artists – visual and performing –  are attempting to change the pervasiveness practice of artists not being paid for their work or the use of their work. If you find this interesting, you can sign up to receive Hyperallergic’s newsletter with artist-centered news and information. I’d love to get your comments on their article and any relevant experiences you’d like to share!

Ready set go

Last night I made the panel for the new painting. I’m still having problems, despite my new vise that holds things into correct alignment for drilling, in squaring the support for the board. I don’t know if it is a fault of my measuring – though I do measure several times – that the panel itself isn’t square, my cutting, or some other problem. If I could afford to buy pre made panels, or to pay someone more skilled and with better tools to make them, that would solve the difficulty, but it irks me that I can’t seem to do better this simple carpentry task.

I’m at that point now where I have to just plunge in. I’ve collected images and made a collage, disregarding all of the lack of coherence as to size and position as the images relate to one another. In my head, there is the strong suggestion of how to proceed and it doesn’t involve waiting any longer. As soon as the gesso dries on the panel, I’m going to begin. Because I am trying to do something I’ve never done (and, really, when is that not the case), I expect it to be very difficult to begin, to continue, and to resolve. But the muse, if that’s what is driving me, is yelling in my ears, so much so that it’s hard to think of anything else. It’s like an earworm of music, a snippet of melody and lyrics, that won’t go away. And yes, I have that too!

Channeling Eric Fischl

I have been trying to piece an image together from photos on the internet of 1950s furniture, clothing, and young girls in a seated pose. As I have no photographs of myself after the age of 9, much less any of the places I’ve lived, I have to find other ways of creating the images. Because the piece I am thinking through is fraught with emotional baggage, I don’t want to use children I know as models. But as I have been thinking about it some more, the idea of the image is gradually changing and possibly starting to take shape so that I’m starting to believe I can capture the emotional load of the original experience. I am less self-critical of my recent work in the Fairy Tale Series than I was feeling on Wednesday, which makes me feel better, not to mention more competent. But I’m still channeling Eric Fischl and trying to secure the confidence to work more transparently, and I’m still wishing for white walls and more space to work larger!



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