Why am I doing this?

July 13, 2012

I don’t mean why am I blogging for an audience of I think four or five plus however many hundred people google the phrase “keep calm and carry on” every day, and I don’t mean why am I making art, because that’s easy (for me it’s equal parts compulsion and means of analysis) I mean why is it so important to me to have shows, have shows in large cities, sell my work, have a career, look like an artist instead of just being one.  I’m wondering this because an acquaintance is in a group show at Andrea Rosen this summer and the chances of me ever being in a show at Andrea Rosen or any place like that are slim because of where I am, who I am and the kind of work I make, so then why not just make work for myself and not worry about the business side of it?

It’s complicated.  Almost all of my shows so far have been at non-profits of various sizes and I only had one gallery show where I sold work and it was underpriced portrait commission work so I don’t get paid enough to even maintain my practice properly, like for instance I need a decent camera and only have an old, low-end digital Rebel, and I need a current version of Photoshop, not cs2.  I also need a studio, but I need that studio to be in LA or NY or London.  I also need money to print out the prints I make.  I don’t even have enough money to mount a show without help if I even had a show in my future besides a show here in Milwaukee which I’m not even sure is happening.

So bearing that in mind, also bear in mind that the more impossible something looks like the more I want it.  My 425 page epic experimental novel?  I don’t just want it published, I want it published by Harper or FSG (etc.).  Same deal with my bdsm-heavy collection of experimental short stories.  My artwork?  I don’t just want to show it, I want to make it into large cerebral installations that require institutional backing that I’m not big enough of an artist to allow.  I want everything.  I’m inordinately ambitious.  That’s reason one.

Reason two (and this is not in order of importance) is that I genuinely want to share my work with people, and doing that here for all five of you or doing it on Facebook is something but having had the opportunity to get let loose in a 40×50′ room that’s what I want now.  Even a 10×12′ room would be workable.  Reason number three is because I feel like my work has value so I should get paid.  There are no grants, etc. in Milwaukee and no public funding but if I’m not selling actual work I feel like I should get a decent hourly wage.  This is labor, after all, however easy or difficult it might look.

Reason number four is just jealousy.  Just “why not me?”  And there are a lot of solid reasons why–my work is often cold and cerebral/conceptual, I’m in Milwaukee, I’m already 35, I don’t have any money, and I’m bad at networking–but that doesn’t wipe that question away.  So I still want the things that are harder for me to get than they are for other artists, and a lot of this is timing and luck anyway, so I’m not so much bemoaning my fate as much as laying out why, when a good-artist acquaintance of mine is in a big summer show, I can’t just be happy for him (and I am happy for him) but it makes me push hard to work and to do things like contact dealers I’m friends with on Facebook and other embarrassing and fruitless pursuits.  And with my mother terminally ill and not knowing what comes after I don’t know when I’ll be back in LA if ever, and whether if I am it’ll be too late, or whether it already is now.

Still feverishly working, though.  This isn’t the best of what I’ve been coughing up but it’s apropos:

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One Response to “Why am I doing this?”

  1. Will Says:

    Being wildly, defiantly ambitious is, I think, the only way to live in an overstimulated society swimming in fear, distraction, and despair. It’s an inoculation against stupidity, complacency, and timidity.

    Stay every bit as ambitious as you are now. It’s the reason you’re this good, and getting better.


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