Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday's Aside : Shifting Gears: Trust the Spiral

Tuesday's Aside, a weekly post in which I will do my damnedest to answer your questions. In order to keep each Tuesday's thread on topic, I'll ask that you post any additional questions on the original thread (even though it will fall off the main page, I'll be emailed each time a new comment is added there and so, thus, will be monitoring continuously).

Anonymous wrote:
[F]or the last decade, I've been working in a particular (craft) medium. I've built myself a tidy wee reputation: some direct sales from the studio, plenty of group exhibitions, a few good reviews and (fewer) solo shows in small-potatoes venues; no gallery representation, though there has been some back-and-forthing with a few. Over the last two years, I've grown bored with the medium and am ready to make a change, if only for want of some stimulation and to preserve my sense of integrity---I can't keep doing something I don't absolutely love anymore.

I know the direction I'm (already) moving in, which is quite different. My questions are:

1.)What to do about my portfolio in regards to galleries? Am I starting from zero again, or can I continue to show the old work, or a mix of old and new, as a way of proving that I'm a hard-working lass? How is this switch going to be perceived? Do I need to convince people all over again that I'm a serious artist?

2.)What about the rep. I've already built? I can go to national-level conferences and people know who I am. That's gratifying, much more so than sales. Is it dumb to give that up?

3.)Anyone else out there in blogland in a similar quandry?

I've been reading your blog for quite a while and respect your professional opinion a lot, so don't hold back.
First and foremost I should frame this by noting that to me the biggest advantage to being an artist, over choosing some other career, is you have ultimate control over how it is you spend your time at "work" (meaning of course in your studio). Being free to make the work you want to seems to me the point in many respects.

Secondly, though, this provide an opportunity for me to introduce a metaphor that I think I'll end up using in several contexts on the blog throughout the next year, but which occurred to me initially when discussing this exact topic. Let me see if I can explain this clearly.

Anonymous you note: "I know the direction I'm (already) moving in, which is quite different." In my experience, though, the direction most artists are moving in only seems different for a while. Here's a simplified version of how I imagine most artists' journeys/interests (as opposed to careers) would look if charted:

The spiral is the path I see/hear about repeatedly in studio visits. Obviously there are many more spokes to this spiral, different subjects that reemerge from time to time, points along the path where you adopt the influence or return to a subject (marked with the red asterisks) and others when some idea/subject/concern occurs to you but you press on ignoring it (where the spiral crosses a spoke but there is no asterisk).

I find this image useful, though, when I recognize during a studio visit that an artist has "returned" to an idea or introduced something that might seem entirely new until I see much older work and realize that for many artists they keep returning to the same ideas again and again, only with more insight/experience than the last time. At such junctures, certain ideas might seem to be threatening what you've built perhaps because it's been a while since Subject A was part of your practice/consciousness. You might have dropped it off at one asterisk. But generally it's radiating through your overall practice all the while. If you need it again, you can pick it up and use it.

An artist I showed this diagram to the other day suggested it's actually much more complex than this. Rather than one two-dimensional spiral, each artist's journey is actually a three-dimensional series of multiple interwoven spirals, and the intersections are not always so chronological. I suspect he's right, but the whole point of illustrating this is to note that I don't think dealers (or anyone else) should associate changes in an artist's practice with a lack of seriousness. Not if they're taking a long-term view.

It may not be easy even for the artist, at the point marked "Today," to see how it's all related (and how a drastic change in medium or practice will later be combined with other more thoroughly examined spokes and bring one's audience back round). Personally I think what seem like dramatic shifts are OK so long as the artist has interesting ideas, is rigorous about exploring them, and has a solid studio practice. It will all come together again, and probably be much more interesting for pushing further out along the spiral, rather than sticking in one spot along it.

OK, so that's the theory. What about practice? What if your change in direction does alarm your audience? Then what?

I'm a big fan of concurrent projects. Even if one is selling better than another, I encourage artists I know to keep multiple pots boiling. You never know when one idea/practice will provide a major breakthrough for another or (and this does happen) you'll tap out the market for one series and then a shift will look like a response to that (i.e., be less convincing) rather than a natural continuation of something you had been doing.

What this means in terms of talking about your new direction to those invested in your work is (if you're concerned it might seem a bit flaky) consider introducing it slowly, in conjunction with other work ("Oh, and here's something new I've been working on. What do you think?" rather than "That other stuff? That's the past...this over here...this is my future...the only thing I'm focused on now)". I can't say one way or the other if you should keep making the older work. That's your call. But there's no reason not to have some of it around for studio visits and such. Not only to comfort your audience, but to see if that old love still holds appeal for you when you've learned some new lessons elsewhere.

Should a dealer, curator or other interested professional give you a hard time about the new direction, I would recommend asking them for a bit of faith and patience. Again, they might be comforted by seeing some of your other work about. If you really need the change, don't be daunted if their interest in the new work is lukewarm. But also, if you trusted their opinion once, don't assume it's only commercial interest that's leading them to criticize your new work either. They may simply not like the new work, and that's something you should get their honest opinion about.

Bottom line in all of this, though, is what you said: "[I] am ready to make a change, if only for want of some stimulation and to preserve my sense of integrity---I can't keep doing something I don't absolutely love anymore." There may be commercial consequences to that, of course, at least temporarily, but there are much worse consequences I imagine to ignoring the fact you've reached that stage with certain work. Unless being a factory worker is why you went to art school.

Labels: Tuesday's Aside


Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

No brainer. like the sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Make the art you want to make.

6/24/2008 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

Philip Guston, of course, is a truly inspiring example of a successful radical switch, his from abstraction to cartoonish figuration.

I'm having a hard time understanding your diagram, Ed. I get it when your write about it (and can relate), but not when it's represented as it is here. I think I'm tripping over the labels on your "spokes"... anyone else having that problem?

6/24/2008 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I tell students that being an artist and feeling bored about your work is like being a doctor and killing your patient. Something has gone fundamentally wrong about what you're doing and requires immediate change.

6/24/2008 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron Wexler said...

Great post for a really relevant topic. I'm sure a lot of positive responses and suggestions will follow.

Organic change in the studio is the best. If it feels right, it probably is and you're probably turned on by it. I don't mean that in a sexual revolution kind of way... maybe I do.
Strategically presenting those changes is difficult.
Unless you have a waiting list for works, I wouldn't fret. (I once experienced a lady sob out loud at an art fair because she couldn't get the kind of piece she expected from a particular artist - that's a different story).

I think one important point though, is that this just might be the first time you're facing this conundrum. You're going to face this many more times - hopefully! The business gets more complicated but if you can simplify (I disagree a little with the many pots boiling thing) and be declarative about your decisions - everything else will fall in line. Might take some time though.

6/24/2008 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm having a hard time understanding your diagram, Ed. I get it when your write about it (and can relate), but not when it's represented as it is here. I think I'm tripping over the labels on your "spokes"... anyone else having that problem?

Was afraid of that.

By "subject A" I mean, perhaps, as one example, autobiography. Say you have an artist whose subject is influenced by being a woman from a Muslim country. Her early paintings focus on the separation of men from women in certain contexts in her country and how that impacted her as a girl. She later expands upon that to comment on disparity outside her country. Later still to comment upon disparity across the globe. One day, years later, she's moved to change directions and stops making paintings to make a film based on a story she remembers her mother telling her to comfort her when she complained about not being able to join her brothers in some activity. It may momentarily seem like an entirely new direction, but because it's actually the same autobiographical thread that fed her earliest work, just in a new medium, the continuity that should comfort her audience is there.

The diagram is meant to illustrate that should her career continue, she'll again, later, most likely circle back to an interest represented by one of the other spokes (a medium, perhaps, or politics, or whatever) but rather than backtracking (as it might seem to some) or a radical new direction (as it might seem to others), she'll actually be further out along the exact same path.

The essence of the spiral design is to illustrate that it is accumulative and therefore always progress. Even if, at times, it feels like backpedaling.

Her film about her mother's story would be very different had she made it before all those years of painting.

Again, I suspect the two-dimensional spiral is an oversimplification. It does have the benefit of illustrating growth, is all.

Any better?

6/24/2008 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

I think a two-dimensional spiral is just fine.

I would be inclined to name the spokes along the lines of Content, Form, Change, but I think that may be too abstract.

6/24/2008 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think those spokes are good examples as well, but many others exist I find when doing studio visits. Even if you're entirely focused on formal abstraction, say, you'll see your palette shift (back and forth) as you move about the world, perhaps, or your mark making go through cycles of being tighter or looser.

Any variable/influence in your process can be a spoke.

6/24/2008 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Oh, and some spokes may appear more frequently than others, obviously. It's not as if you have to wait for Subject A to impact your work again before Concern B does each time. I think that's why the three-dimensional model is actually somewhat better, if harder to draw or read.

6/24/2008 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There do seem to be two overarching ways of working. One kind of artist finds his/her style and then expends more energy thereafter on marketing/business. Another kind is more interested in what's next in the studio. Product vs process at its extreme. I'm in the second category but most of the successful artists I know are more in the first.

For me franklin hit it on the nail. Boredom. If I feel comfortable in what I'm doing, it's time to move on.

6/24/2008 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Lycee said...

I tell students that being an artist and feeling bored about your work is like being a doctor and killing your patient. Something has gone fundamentally wrong about what you're doing and requires immediate change.

maybe that's why you're not teaching anymore!

6/24/2008 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

what does that mean lycee? I think Franklin's advice is very wise. Why such a personal snide comment? I may not agree with everything Franklin puts out there but I respect him and dont feel he deserves such rudeness.

great post ed, i will take some time to digest, im not the brightest bulb today!

6/24/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great post today. I feel this is somewhat related so hopefully you don't mind me posting it here.

Hypothetically speaking, let's say there is an unknown artist (no gallery rep) who has produced a lot of work in the past 5 years. He has posted a lot of it on his site. To a brand new visitor, it might seem that the work is all over the place. In reality though, the vast majority of the work is very much related (on the same spiral) while some of it, admittedly, is not.

This hypothetical artist has a friend with gallery representation all over the country. This friend has offered to make a personal reference of the unknown artist's work to one particular gallery. The successful artist has recommended that the unknown artist massively edit his Web site to show only the most finished body of work (most is from 2004-06). The successful artist believes that the gallery owner will likely only spend a couple of minutes on the site and unless the site is edited, may be confused about what the artist is all about. In short, the successful artist believes you should present your "best" foot forward and then later allow the rest of the spiral to become known.

As a gallery owner, what do you think? Is it better to keep it simple and show one body of work (maybe 10 images), or do you show a highly edited selection from the entire spiral?

6/24/2008 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Actually, the redesign of my site last year tried to reflect your point, Ed. Instead of breaking the works up individually by date or medium or even concept, I set up a cross-referenced tagging system, like a blog. So any given art work would have a date, could be both time-based and a work on paper (among other things), and might also be about interrogating notions of embodiment, interventionist in nature, and part of an ongoing series. You click on a tag and the site filters out those not in it, and it also automatically shows "similar works" when viewing a singular piece. The coolest thing for me was to see the trajectories of my thinking and making through the eyes of the database once it was set up. I myself was not aware of where I was jumping back and forth until I, well, viewed the spiral from above...

Here's a link to inside the site, tags on the left: nathaniel stern

6/24/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post Ed. I like the spiral, and I like the idea of the 3 dimensional spiral even better.

To anon 11:04:
Why not have hypothetical unrepresented artist (HUA) put the images that HypotheticalRepresentedArtist thinks are appropriate for Dealer on a CD and have HRA send it to Dealer? I think the idea of trimming your whole website (and limiting what every other potentially interested person can see) is not a good idea. If Dealer likes what s/he sees on the CD, proceed from there.

And lycee, I agree with Mark. Not to respond to snark with more snark, but I can't resist saying maybe that's why you're still in lycee and Franklin is a productive artist, writer and teacher. Everyone here is (generally) offering advice and comments in good faith and there is usually something to learn from them.


6/24/2008 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sometimes it can work out that you can keep the popular work going and think of it as your day job. Depending on several things, including how bored you are with it, how repetitive it is, or how much new stuff you can bring to it, and your comfort level with the "factory" (or "production") model, you can continue to make the popular stuff on a limited edition basis, or on commission, while you work in your studio on developing the new, experimental stuff that is branching out on a new spoke. Just possibly, working in your own factory beats working in someone else's!. Be creative, make it work! We're artists!


6/24/2008 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Love the diagram, even if it seems to imply a return to the womb.

I’d envision it as a timeline chart with the artist’s life looking like an inverted saw blade. Above that would be a rotating gear whose teeth mesh with the teeth on the saw. On the gear would be the vectors of interests that would rotate as the blade moves horizontally (this is a simplified version of the Mayan cosmic clock). Built onto the gear would be a cam with a pushrod that connects to the general societal movements (maybe it should be chain-driven). General societal movements would reflect the past, present, and future. All this would be floating through a vertical transcendable membrane that represents the present, but is flexible enough to accommodate small warps in the time/space continuum. The general societal movements are attached to the interplanetary gravitational and solar forces by the universal joint of a 1964 Peugeot….

As a gallery owner, what do you think?

6/24/2008 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I believe I've seen exactly that diagram in a catalog of works in the Prinzhorn collection.

(work by residents of a 19th century insane asylum)


6/24/2008 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Genius is often mistaken for insanity by the “establishment”. Not saying you're the "establishment" just...

You should see my diagram of the "Art Bloggers Universe".

6/24/2008 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, I jest! And I love the artists in the P'horn collection! And I aint no establishmentarian, honest. I'd love to see your art bloggers universe. I love (the late) Mark Lombardi! I love paranoid visionary doodlers of all kinds! I've frequently been called obsessive-compulsive myself! I love me some crazy people!


6/24/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can attest that Oriane love her some crazy people and might even be one.

6/24/2008 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...


I presume the artist has a few preoccupations that are at the heart of his or her work,
them being formal, thematic, etc... I would presume the best is to select the few
works that most represent what is at heart for the artist. If you have a thousand interests, usually
there is something that brings them all formally. I think the dealer will be comparing his couple
favorite images (works) with the coherency of everything else.

Actually, I love when artists simply publish their whole catalog on the web, but I'm not the narrow-minded dealer who would find that problematic. I'm not sure doing everything to please is a good solution. Have some

Cedric C

PC: Lycee's comment was an easy shot, but Franklin has been evil in his own ways, mostly on his blog, and I understand why people can have griefs against the man.

6/24/2008 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Nathaniel, was it hard to hack WordPress to make it do that?

6/24/2008 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Flipside said...

First: grow your hair. Two: get a better t-shirt design, one with a Viking on it, and death to sound men on the back. And three: I haven't thought about it yet.

6/24/2008 02:38:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

You definitely can't make art with the endgame in mind.

Make what you really need to make. Then go find yourself an audience and a context that makes sense.

6/24/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Ender's Game said...

I understand.

6/24/2008 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Nathaniel does exactly what Marc described yesterday: art that travels between internet and physical (Second and Real Life).

Is that a coincidence?

Cedric C

6/24/2008 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Trust the downward Spiral said...

The domain of the moon

6/24/2008 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Nathaniel, was it hard to hack WordPress to make it do that?

Honestly? Yeh, it was kind of a pain in the butt. But I'm happy with it and more than willing to share the hacked theme and plugins with whoever wants them. Just email me privately...

Nathaniel does exactly what Marc described yesterday: art that travels between internet and physical (Second and Real Life)....Wow!

Thanks for looking, Cedric. Those simulate editions you're referring to were an interesting departure for me; I'm excited to say there're a few more projects that feed back between SL (or the internet) and RL in the works....

6/24/2008 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

I like the spiral and I totally get it in theory- in practice there are many questions in my mind about how one body of my work has anything to do with another one- but this is a timely topic since I am packing up and storing 15 years worth of my art this summer since several older series never went anywhere so it was a question of it was painful to stop making them because I always had more ideas and I was getting better with the technical issues/execution as I went along but storing them and finding no audience or context for them and seeing alot of other people do it better discouraged me so did seeing alot of people doing the same thing. Another friend of mine used to tell me when you are in the studio you are working to please your teacher until your teacher walks out, then it is your parents and family until they walk out then it is your gallery or your dealer until they walk out then it is yourself until you walk out and it is only the art that is left. I feel like I never got anywhere with my angst or my brilliance- but I loved indulging in & making the work and I am not ruling out everything from the past- what I saw in my work was being able to speak in different languages (i.e. pottery, found object assemblage/junkyard art, drawing, conceptual/pop art allowed me to say different things and that was very complex- I didnt want to market several different media, several different bodies of work- I thought I would be more successful to focus on one and let the rest fall by the wayside- some of the conceptual and commercial pieces wound up being helpful to my use of color in my current body of work- sometimes I was working on the wall- but many times the wall pieces led me back into sculptures- which validates my 'spiral' one thing I have been thinking this summer in the midst of this process is something Georgia O'Keeffe said once when she was a crossroads in her own work and not sure where to go next- she set several pieces up in a row and picked the one direction that was the most 'herself' and set a course in that direction...

6/24/2008 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Fascinating and i and so many artists i know can relate to this situation.

Much of this reminds me of lateral thinking and provocative operations. I think as artists, when we hit that wall and we need to change some aspect of the pattern we are involved in, it is a desire to avoid a pattern of judgment which can lead us to reject possibilities and therefore stagnate. An artist's work is all about possibilities. A practice usually develops thru minute exploration of possibilities (small stepping stones) until the day when that exploration becomes a predictable, rigid pattern. Then we need to use a large stepping stone to move onto a new pattern. An artist's process is constant provocation in small, medium, or large quantities.

6/24/2008 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Carol Diehl said...

I'm suspicious of any artist who has to ask someone else what they should be doing.

6/24/2008 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm suspicious of any artist who has to ask someone else what they should be doing.

My thoughts exactly.

I tend to respond well to those who do exactly what they want. Make the rules, bend them, are generally pleasant -- other than that, rule-of-thumb, rock the world.

...having worked in a factory for some few hours, I remember walking out, looking back to a world that was not better or worse than where I was heading, it was just different--one that I could leave however penniless.

Machines are beautiful things. We build them to give form to ideas and intuitions. Those who in some small way are part of that machine, it's operation and maintenance, feel the idea, touch first-hand the machination, the intuition.


6/24/2008 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

15 years of art should be a celebration. Make a little retro somewhere before storing everything.


6/25/2008 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger Stefano Pasquini said...

Hey Ed,
Interesting spiral, it makes me wonder, where does it end? with the death of the artist? or the moment the artist (successfully) repeat his/her work endlessly? I think of artists such as Richard Long, his spiral slowly turning into a straight line...

6/25/2008 04:46:00 AM  
Blogger the reader said...

Thanks for your post. I'm sure I'm not the only one who read it as a nice affirmation of the philosophy of making the work that is vital to you and making the connections later. the spiral illustrates the process nicely. thanks again.

6/25/2008 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"i'm suspicious of any artist who has to ask someone else what they should be doing"

whatever. andy did it all the time... as do komar and melamid, as does kostabi, as do countless others, to different degrees, privately or publicly.

there are no rules, there is no right way. the absolute worst is non-artists saying how things "should" be.

6/25/2008 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger minimum said...

I am surprised no one mentioned the craft element of anonymous' work. Transitioning from painting to video or vice versa is quite a move, but i don't know if I would say it is a good analogy of a transition from a craft medium to a fine art one. The upper case art world has a habit of scoffing at craft, and I'm not sure that a gallery would be interested in anonymous' history in the field. My partner works in a craft discipline. She has a couple of solo shows a year, has a gallery in the us and europe, and sells nearly all of her work yet artist who are not represented and have trouble getting shows regionally look down on her practice. I wonder if the move from craft to fine art would be less transitional and more starting over.

6/25/2008 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous simon said...

Any psychologist will tell you we repeat what we know.

6/25/2008 03:13:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

Excellent point, minimum.

The Questioner doesn't say, though, whether she's moving from raku'ed slabs to porcelain bowls, or from blown glass vessels to video installation.

6/25/2008 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

----non-artists saying how
----things "should" be.

There is no such person as a non-artist. As soon as you begin to apprehend or interprete any artwork, you are doing the job of an artist.

You probably meant Fine Artist, but they are many nuances when using the word "art".

Cedric Caspesyan

6/25/2008 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeah, gosh, sorry. everyone's am artist, everything is art, there is no good or bad. right.

6/25/2008 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Carl cox said...

I understand

6/25/2008 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

oh yeah, gosh, sorry. everyone's am artist, everything is art, there is no good or bad. right.

Again...it does that follow that even if everything is art that there is no good or bad.

Separate out those two ideas.

6/25/2008 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

I'd further Ed's plea for separation by arguing that one of Duchamp's main contributions with Fountain and the ready-mades (for example) was not to explore the notion that "anything is art" but rather to interrogate and distinguish the term "art" and/from the concept of "value." When someone says, "that's a work of art," or, "that's not art," it's actually a misguided value judgment that wrongly assumes if something is art it is inherently good, or if it is not, it must be bad. Contextual critique says value comes from elsewhere.... Like the man said, "Separate out those two ideas."

6/25/2008 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, lead balloon has landed.

6/25/2008 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Art had a lonnng way before Fine Art was invented as a category.
Being artistic is just an aptitude of the mind. It's not about the results, the results are simply tangible proofs that an artistic mind existed to make them, but in order to apprehend the creativity or imagination or whatever that potentially emanates from an object, you need a perceptual vision that is "artistic" enough to accept peceptual information in artistic terms.

Put an object and a human in front of each other, and the only proof that you have that art exists is if the mind is able to judge that the object is Art (and this is the strange part: wrether the object was originally intentioned to be art, this being widely acknowledged in archeological studies).

Besides, I use "artistic" as a general nomination that exceed
expansively upon the standard entente of Fine Arts. It's another word for "creative", but "artistic" sounds to me more encompassive of sensibilities that do not produce precise ends (product, action, etc).



6/25/2008 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Of course there is always good and bad art. In fact, between two works of art, you'll always be instinctively attracted by one over the other, at any precise moment, depending on all sorts of inner criterias (your physical body (your eyes), the physical configurations themselves (your position in space), how you were culturally brought up, your emotional state, your usual tastes, your desire of the new or you preference for tradition, intellectual activity (thinking),
external influences or constraints (someone talking to you, job as an art journalist), etc, etc, etc..)

I don't believe people who say they don't have preferences. That's just impossible.

Cedric Caspesyan

6/25/2008 09:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 6/25/2008 12:29:00 PM whatever. andy did it all the time... as do komar and melamid, as does kostabi, as do countless others, to different degrees, privately or publicly. These artists you mention, which i have heard of, I'm told were in control of their own career, maybe with business help. One had this silly little TV show that named paintings. Wow! That was great!
But, right, the business model as an expression of creativity, a societal direction, a hybrid of popular, fixation and fine art, and whatever, is valid. Sure!

This person is asking something more simple. Do I do a, which I'm bored with, or b, which is more 'fine art'. I don't believe Grayson Perry is asking this.

6/25/2008 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wasn't referring to the initial question, i was responding to the more general remark by carol diehl, which is why i quoted it and included it in my comment.

"i'm suspicious of any artist who has to ask someone else what they should be doing"

6/25/2008 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'anonymous' you have changed your date:)

OK, I see!


6/26/2008 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks minimum, that is EXACTLY what I was trying to get at when I asked the question. I'm going from the craft niche to drawings and videos. I think it does "mean" more to galleries and curators than going from painting to video.

(And yes, the capital-A art folks who are still showing in coffee shops definitely thumb their noses at me, despite my resume. Craft is not for the thin skinned.)

Carol Diehl, I hope you never need advice, ever. That good ol' karmic cycle is such a b*tch. But for the record, I'm not asking what I should be doing- I'm already doing it- I'm asking how I should approach the situation as a professional.

Thanks, Edward, for posting and responding to my question. Someday I'm going to come to NY and bring you flowers.

6/26/2008 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedrioc C said...

Anon you're really underestimating your audience.

Craft is an asset of contemporary arts just like any medium. You probably haven't visited shows that support a link craft and video, but that's not news to me.

Do not underestimate your audience,


6/26/2008 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

A lot of good advice here. Craft is not for the thin skinned, but either is the other kind of art. I'm sure, anonymous, that you have a great deal to bring to your new direction after your years as a craft artist. I like John Perreault's braid theory (but he comes from a long experience in craft) better than Ed's spiral. He designed it as an approach to art history and influence, but I think it holds for an artist's personal development. But craft is the kiss of death in many quarters, so yes this is a quandry from a marketing standpoint. I would ruthlessly edit the craft work and then try to make the case.

I think these questions are very timely and crucial. The latest Crafts U.K. mag has some interesting points of view from the other side of the fence, although I believe the fence is an illusion. It's very real from a market standpoint but the greater insight from the artists point of view I believe is that it is an illusion.

Josiah McElhenny is the example many use and I saw one of his incredible pieces at the Boston MFA a week or two ago, but I don't think he talks much about craft now that he's on the other side of the fence. Any good painter understands craft of course, "bad painting" notwithstanding.

6/27/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that's the thing, the fence IS an illusion- IN THE STUDIO: when you're making work, every material/medium is fair game to the artist. No artist should feel limited by medium, no matter what label it carries.

But limited by market forces and curators' perception of one medium's supremacy over another? Aye, there's the rub.

Maybe I'm not underestimating the audience, I'm underestimating my ability to market my own work, to come up with all-new theories and justifications as to why this work needs to exist and is important. That's a maybe. Cedric, I need to sit with your comment for a while ad think about it.

But the meat of what Edward said about the recursive nature of subject matter and themes in the work certainly holds true for me. And I do think that it will be patently obvious what I was trying to do when I'm in my wooden box and all the evidence is laid out.

As always, the real answer to the question is, "Go back to the studio and keep working."

6/27/2008 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Carol Diehl said...

My response was to a specific question posed to Ed, but since it was taken as a more general statement I'll rephrase it: I'm suspicious of any artist who has to ask someone else if they should keep working at something they're bored with. Advice, feedback, criticism can be essential to artistic growth, but that’s different from asking someone outside the studio where you should be putting your focus. In any case, boredom is rarely the pathway to great art.

6/28/2008 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And full explication of one's thoughts, instead of platitudes, is rarely the pathway to getting snarked at.

6/29/2008 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Carol, I think boredom was the core to many essential developments in contemporary art, especially in the past century!
Think of Duchamp!

6/30/2008 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, i don't think much good art comes from a sense of satisfaction or contentment. also hate often reading, usually here, non-artists talking about how "happy" an artist is supposed to be in the studio.

6/30/2008 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps - that is not a shot at or directed to carol, whom i know is an artist. just a general art vent.

6/30/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Carol Diehl said...

I don't think Duchamp did work he was bored with because he had an eye to the market. Art comes out of all sorts of feelings and emotions, but going against your gut instincts while trying to second-guess the market, doesn't sound like the most effective way to go. As for being happy in the studio...I wish...but I also think it's a cliche that it need always be a struggle. In the end the only thing that counts is not how we get there, but the result.

7/02/2008 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger Stewart Kenneth Moore (Booda) said...

I like this post, I think the point you make about personal or creative freedom is true ~ the hard won treasure of any artist is intellectual liberty. To be open, receptive, this is the core.
You can only really listen to the voice within, if a dealer doesn't hear it or see it, too bad, it's your journey. You pass them on the road, they see only that moment. Of course it helps sell you if you always stay in the same place, look the same, act the same...but then your journey will have stopped.

7/02/2008 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Boring art doesn't mean bad art, but to contrapoint with what Carol's saying, if you focus too much on doing the right art career, it will translate in your work, and unless your art has something really compelling to transcribe about aspects of carrierism or the art market, you're really not focussing on what you should be focussing, which is really transcribing what you're aiming at through your art in the most successful ways.

To anon:

sometimes the problem is just the way you present your art. If someone does a decorative dish, than maybe presenting a collection in a cabinet (as a single piece), and acknowledging the origins of your artefact in some ways (why decorative dish, what does it mean, or what are your trying to encircle or expand using that format) will work out under the frame of "Fine Arts".

If you paint cute little animals, than why do you paint those? What do you have to say about cute animals? Or are you using them as a pretext to explore form? How is form achieved? If you're going from a tradition as decorative dish, where does that come from?
I might be interested as a viewer.
Maybe on that very day in the museum I need an artist bringing me a cabinet of dish instead of the expected painting.

There is no such medium as too tacky to not be able transcribe the sublime.


Cedric Caspesyan

7/02/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

PS: when exploring form, sometimes the best is to not follow any rules. You'll discover them as you go on.

7/02/2008 06:38:00 PM  

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