Saturday, November 6

Keeping Friends Outside the Art World

Dan Cameron (Photo via Art Fag City)
I have been following Paddy Johnson's interview series, Survival in New York, on Art Fag City. The series includes interviews of young and established artists and curators including to-date: Marcin Ramocki, Lauren Cornell, Dan Cameron, Triple Candie and William Powhida. They will be compiled and reflected upon later this month in an issue of MAP Magazine.

New York is a far cry from Portland (or maybe not) but the artist survival woes are the same. How does an artist develop a career of making things while making a living?

The interviewee's are genuinely down-to-earth about their practice. Maybe confidence like that is exuded after establishing yourself or eliminating doubt. Confidence is a common trait among young artists, but being down-to-earth is certainly not.

I identify myself as having worked through, and used up, my post-undergraduate doubts and ideals and now am thinking pragmatically. How do I make this possible, even if what I am making is not making it possible? And, beyond the act of creating for myself, what purpose does it serve more broadly?

There's no surprise that all artists "think about the economics and how people get paid". Maybe there are some artists that don't worry about this! But being realistic should have a more humbling purpose too: measuring yourself. There's nothing worse than a bad artist taking themselves too seriously. The Art World, like any other industry can be insular and warped. Artists should exist as much in the Art World as they do in the real world. Lauren Cornell mentions:
A lot of my friends are not in the art world, they are in other fields and I think that's a really great part of living in New York [or Portland], that you do have access to so many kinds of people...I am definitely hanging out with a broad cross of people. And many of them look at me cross-eyed when they don't understand how I make ends meet in the arts. I think that art is a hard thing to do. It takes a lot of risks to be an artist and so it's nice to be surrounded by other people who are making art. But I also think that the art world can be insular and it can be important to be outside of it, too.
And where are the young artists, totally absorbed in the Art World coming from? Art Schools. Robert Storr, the Dean of the Yale School of Art, recently interviewed on PORT, alludes also to the idea of measuring yourself against others, not taking yourself too seriously and using those "reality checks" to understand how great (or bad) you are and to grow:
My concern is with what goes on in schools and so long as students understand that they are there to learn and to question and to make things for which there is not a priori necessity, and that their choosing to be an artist does not mean that the world owes them a career or that they are entitled to special status with respect to others whose lives are devoted to different activities, then art schools are as good a place as any, and better than most for a person to come into their own and form an unalienated working relation to their own faculties and capacities. All my life I have worked too hard at various jobs to pay for the freedom to paint and draw. Painting and drawing have never paid for themselves. I have no complaints and do not feel badly done to.

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