Older than J*s*s

October 20, 2011

Note the stars in the title is there so I don’t get a lot of random hits from religious google users but you can figure it out.

A few years ago there was a show at the Whitney with the title Younger than vs. Older than and I saw the (massive) catalogue at the art library today and I had friends in that show who were indeed younger but I know just enough about religion to know that now, age 34, I don’t meet the cutoff.  What’s more interesting than my current age, though, is how the contemporary art world has become youth-obsessed to the point where at 34  I’m allegedly past the age where I can be “discovered” and that there’s a decade’s worth of artists who are younger, better looking and wealthier than me out there competing with me for the same white wall space.  I’m not bemoaning my fate as distortedly elderly so much as a little amazed at how quickly the art world seems to expect artists to arrive fully formed on the scene and either rise or sink depending on networking and luck more than on work.

At my age I feel like it’s only work that I’ve made over the age of 30 that I would even want to show (this goes for my writing too); it may just be me but I never hit on a specific hook or style early on that I stuck to; instead I was just following whatever interested me and slowly maturing as an artist.  In retrospect that seems to me like I should feel like I was in error in roaming instead of claiming aesthetic territory but I don’t regret being nomadic, because even though it may be time to put me out to pasture I’ve been able to reach ideas and approaches in my work that never would have occurred to me if I were still doing the same thing I was doing ten years ago, which was furtive half-formed domestic vernacular photography.  Restlessness is what led me to embed as a fake war photographer in the Mojave desert and is what has led me to make large-scale monochrome abstractions.

It’s possible that an artist can hit on a specific tack at a young age and keep riding it forever; I have classmates who have been doing just that, and more power to them.  Maybe my maturity and sophistication will pay off somehow in years to come and, even though I know that the older I get the harder it will become for me to get shows and build a career, I’m very glad I wandered as much as I have, even to the point where a “gallery” I won’t name here (well okay it’s Beers Lambert) dropped me because they couldn’t figure out a way to package my work.  Meaning a way to package me.  At 34.  Still wandering and making new discoveries.  Completely unrepentant.

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