Becoming The Successful Artist

January 24, 2014 · Print This Article

Just over 6 months ago, after 8 years of being a practicing contemporary artist, I graduated with my MFA. Though I knew my post graduation time would be full of unexpected ups and downs, and the struggle would be trying, I still had little idea of what it be like. Here I am with my degree, job hunting, making work and participating in the arts community like I knew I would, but there were a lot of things I was unprepared for. One of those things is just how shocking, depressing, uplifting, relieving, trying, exciting, lost, hopeful, and full of opportunity it would all feel. I know I’m doing well and trying as hard as I can, but it’s still hard to keep afloat.

So I think what I’m writing about is something that is not openly talked about. How when grad school is over, even though you get a lot out of the experience, somehow you’re also hitting the reset button and starting the climb all over gain. It’s a love/hate experience. I was even hesitant to write about it because maybe if I admitted it hasn’t been that great it will reflect poorly on me. But I was also lucky to have mentors to talk to who know there are many like me, struggling to get by in a depressed economy where the rules just aren’t the same as they used to be. It seems like every job is something I am not experience enough for, or too experienced for, Its like being stuck on a bridge in a traffic jam. I’m going to a place I can’t get to, leaving a place I can’t go back to and the bridge is packed with cars all going the same way.

Many in our modern era look at the pursuit of art practices as selfish, and worthless endeavors. If you went through college as an art major, you’ve already had to face it over and over. The same friends and family that encouraged you to be creative, expressive and a follower of the obscure thing called “your dreams,” then cringe when you tell them you are an art major. You are told that you better make a back up plan, and you’ll never make a living as an artist. Yet I can’t help but wonder, perhaps if we felt more supportive of the arts there would be more support there. The student studying to be an entrepreneur is often told what a brave contributor they are while the artist students are often told what a mistake they are making. To get through it, no matter who you are, you had to face discouragement from friends, family, teachers, councilors, bosses, the government, and in general the world is just not invested in you. Yet despite continuous discouragement for this hugely impactful and important cultural force we call art, you became an artist.

Part of the reason this post-school transition becomes such a struggle is the ever-present stigma of a successful artist. What exactly is the benchmark for being successful as an artist? Others often remind me that the probability of becoming a famous artist is very low. I respond by saying I never want to be a famous artist; I want to be renowned in the art world for what I do in a way where my practice is accepted but not famous. On some level my disinterest in fame has to do with a paradox that affects an artists once they rise to a certain level of fame.

Once in my undergrad while taking an honors art class with Haim Steinbach we were critiquing work and he said we needed to keep experimenting and not get stuck in one way of making. He explained that we were lucky, because he was now what he called a “dead artist” and we were not. As he was a famous and active artist, at first this first seemed like an impossible thing to say. He explained that once your artwork is found, the public/art market begins to push you towards remaking that one piece you became famous for. That even when you want to explore different avenues, it’s very difficult as a famous artist to get shows, funding or acceptance if you aren’t in some way reproducing the work you have become known for. And this is the moment, he explained, when you become a “dead artist”. By achieving the fame his work became constrained to it’s own commodification, killing his practice and in turn his art.

Haim Steinbach froot loops 1, 2007  plastic laminated wood shelf; 2 rubber dog chews; 3 "Froot Loops" cereal boxes  28.25 x 62 x 13.5 in. (71.8 x 157.5 x 34.3 cm)

Haim Steinbach
froot loops 1, 2007

So what do we do when trying to forge our own way and build our careers after school? There are answers out there if you keep talking about it, and I am thankful for those out there who will discuss this openly. Understanding it takes time. You really are beginning again, but know that you are better off than where you began before. Plant seeds everywhere. You never know what is going to sprout and where it will lead. Say yes to everything you can, as you never know where it will go. Keep yourself humble, you’re not too good for any job. Keep yourself proud, no job you take is a shame to have as long as you are keeping your practice up. Keep moving forward every day. Make plans, improvements and goals. Know you are not alone and you are doing the right thing. And how do you measure your success? I’ve got to say when I take everything into account, knowing of course that success is a very personal reflection, I do think there is a clear way to know if you are a successful artist. That after all the pressure, aversions, and struggles you still keep making art. No matter how your practice changes, or where you are, or what job you have, or how stable you are financially, or wherever your life may lead: being a successful artist has nothing to do with that, but rather with you staying an artist. The continuation and advancement of your artwork and practice itself is the mark of a truly successful artist.

 

Special thanks for thier support and inspriation: Charles Rice, Mark Jeffery, Bradley Litwin and Haim Steinbach




Endless Opportunities : Jobs, Papers and Travel Grants

November 9, 2013 · Print This Article

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1. School Director and Professor of Art, Art History, or Graphic Design at Portland State University. Review of applications begins December 1, 2013; position is open until finalists are identified. 

The School of Art and Design in the College of the Arts at Portland State University invites applications for a Director of the School and Professor in any one of the fields of Art Practices, Art History, or Graphic Design. This is a tenured, 1.0 FTE, 12-month position, commencing fall 2014. The Director will provide creative leadership and vision as well as administrative oversight for a burgeoning School of 20 full-time and 70 part-time faculty, 32 M.F.A. students, and approximately 1100 undergraduate majors, while supervising 4 full-time and 7 part-time support staff and administering a budget of over $4 million. Comprised of Art Practices, Art History, and Graphic Design, the School seeks a dynamic Director to build cohesion among these areas; spearhead program assessment and strategic long-term planning initiatives; manage resources and, working with the Dean of the College of the Arts, help obtain additional resources; enhance facilities and/or improve ways to utilize current facilities; and represent the School energetically within the larger cultural community. Recently grown from a Department of Art, the School is poised to expand the unique potential of its interdisciplinary opportunities as well as possibilities for continuing community engagement. more info here. 

2a/2b. Colgate University seeks Art Historian and Studio Art, Photography Professor:

a. Art Historian—Kindler Chair in Global Contemporary Art: Full-time, Associate or Full Professor, tenure track

Develop and teach an array of undergraduate courses in transnational and global art and art institutions since 1970 in a coordinated art history and studio department. The candidate’s research focus should be relevant to the shifting terrain of contemporary art and in particular to the interaction of aesthetic and cultural ideals across boundaries. Regular teaching contributions include an annual course in the development of art and theory since 1960 as well as participation in all levels of the curriculum. Responsibilities also include senior thesis advising and participation in Colgate’s interdisciplinary programs, including the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum. Five-course load. Colgate’s planned Center for Art and Culture will offer important opportunities for pedagogical, curatorial, and scholarly collaboration…go here for details

b. Studio Art, Photographer. Full-time tenure-track position at the assistant professor level in the Department of Art & Art History, beginning fall term 2014.

Teach beginning and advanced courses in photography as a studio practice within a joint studio and art history department equipped with both analog and digital facilities. Additional responsibilities include annual participation in the introductory studio course that spans theory and practice across artistic media, annual supervision of senior projects, periodic supervision of the department’s senior project sequence in studio art, and regular contributions to Colgate’s interdisciplinary programs, including the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum. The candidate is responsible for oversight of the photography facilities. Completion of the MFA is expected prior to or shortly after the date of hire. Five course load. Information here.

3. Open Books Seeks Teaching Artists for ReadThenWrite: 

We’re looking for experienced educators to join our team as Teaching Artists for our ReadThenWrite program in the winter and spring of 2014. Teaching Artists will facilitate 8-12 week reading, writing, and publishing instruction for teens at schools across Chicago. Interested candidates should view the job descriptionand RSVP for the December 5th info session.

4.  Journal of European Popular Culture 6.1 (late 2014) : Call for Papers on Gender and Sexuality in European Popular Culture

The field of gender and sexuality studies in European popular culture is, unsurprisingly, vast, yet research is often focused on Anglophone culture, encompassing the UK and North America, rather than taking a more trans-European approach. In an increasingly globalised society we consider that there is a need for discussion of Anglophone and non-Anglophone European popular texts to be infiltrated into British academic work.

This special issue of the Journal of European Popular Culture, due to be published in late 2014, will provide a timely snapshot of the rigorous and exciting scholarship currently being undertaken in Europe which deals with the widely relevant and popular field of gender and sexuality.

We invite articles (max 6000 words) exploring any aspect of gender and sexuality in any form of European popular culture, including but not limited to:

  • Queerness in popular culture
  • Transgenderism in popular culture
  • Sexualisation in popular culture
  • The body in popular culture
  • Historical approaches to popular gender and sexuality
  • Masculinity in popular culture
  • European sex media
  • Sex education in popular culture
  • Religious approaches to gender and sexuality
  • Gender, sexuality and race/ethnicity
  • Sexuality on the internet
  • Feminism in/and popular culture
  • Gender, sexuality and language
  • Gender, sexuality and power

Please send 100-200 word abstracts to genderandsex.jpec@gmail.com by 15 December. Ensure you include your full name and affiliation (if relevant), along with a brief (100-200 word) biography. Full chapters will be due by 1 March 2014.

5. Word Riot: Travel Grant Applications - 

Word Riot Inc. will award travel grants ranging from $100 to $500 to small press writers on a quarterly basis.
The number of grants and the amount awarded each quarter will depend on the quality and thoroughness of the applications received. A minimum of one grant of at least $100 will be awarded each quarter. Preference will be given to applicants who extend the reach of the arts to under-served populations by participating in readings or literary events in those communities. Deadline: Nov. 15, 2013 go here for details