Hi, and welcome to my first blog post! I don't know how sporadically I'll be making these, but today I have a lot on my mind. I'll start with the title- what's up!
What's up with me lately is that I finally, after all these years of looking forward to it (since sophomore year of high school, 2014), have received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and my thesis exhibition has come and gone. It was a lot of work, such a wonderful show, and so, so worth it. Thank you to everyone that was able to come out and see the show, the huge turnout meant a lot to me.
So... now what?
Real quick, at least I have some events planned:
-Saturday, June 18th from 12-6, I'll be in Manchester, NH at Queen City Pride Festival. I'm debuting some pride chicken cards and originals there.
-Saturday, June 25th from 9-3, I'll be in Laconia, NH at 38 Gale Ave, for Art in the Yard, a unique event with some other local creatives, including my middle school art teacher who believed in me since 5th grade! We'll be making during the day so come hang out.
-From July 2-30, two of my pieces will be in the Pastel Society of NH Annual Member Exhibition. The show will hang at the Wolfeboro, NH public library, with a closing reception 1-4pm on Saturday the 30th.
-Saturday and Sunday, August 6&7, I'll be in Lee, NH with a booth at the Coppal House Farm Sunflower Festival. I'll have some new sunflower pieces up for grabs for the first time.
-Saturday and Sunday, September 17&18, I'll be at the Manchester Citywide Arts Festival on Hanover St. in Manchester, NH. Just found out this one two days ago!
So now that you have all that on your calendar and you're 100% coming to all of them, back to my griping.
I've been trying for years to stay ahead of the game, to get myself into the art world as quickly as possible so that I can go full-time once the numbers add up that way. I don't want to waste any more of my life stocking shelves when I could be making art, like I'm meant to do. I'm a lucky individual, I've always known my purpose is to make art, when others struggle their whole lives to find meaning. To do this, I need to make enough money to live and not have a day job.
Okay, so I hit the art-school-grad goal. I've been building a small, mostly local audience for at least three years, and slowly learning how to network. I have experience in craft fairs, galleries, making commissions, and a myriad of other professional development, as if I went to business school or something. It's been a throw-it-all-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach, and it's working in bits and pieces. A little of this and a little of that has let me reduce my day-job hours to devote more time to art.
So I guess the bits and pieces are part of the problem now. There's this artificial (or is it?) hierarchy in the art world I'm beginning to sense, and what I'm doing is now at odds with itself. I hung my work in a fine art gallery and sensed that I'm looked down upon somewhat. Is it my age? Can they tell I don't come from "comfortable" money, like many in this realm do? Is it the chickens? Without dropping a name, the gallery in question is walking the line in my mind between the high art world and accessible art world, at least within my local range. I feel like I'm selling out and not selling well enough at the same time.
I've always valued art being accessible to everyone. I don't like nor make work that takes multiple art degrees to comprehend. The goal has been to make some money to free myself. I'm just a kid that grew up online, so the way I saw artists making it was on Instagram. You develop a niche, market it, run yourself like a one-woman business. I found my hens did the trick, but I didn't leave my landscapes behind.
But the world of high art is more philosophy than good business. In fact, all the chickens look like I'm selling out (even though literally, I've never sold out of anything- LOL.) It's as if that side of my business discredits the fact that I have a degree and I'm thinking hard about what (else) I make.
Recently I attended a show featuring the work of some of my former professors, and came into a head-on collision with this problem that's been brewing in my mind. The show was Summer Masters at Kimball Jenkins, and I saw lots of work and talked to lots of people that shook my current thoughts on art.
Patrick, Patti and Marcus were instructors of mine and I've seen some of their work, but not recently and not this much. All the work in this show was truly deserving of its title. All their work took many more hours and many more years of practice than anything I have. I could have stared at several pieces much longer than I did, but I was missing valuable time to be sociable with the New Hampshire art community. The show is only ten minutes from my day job, so I may return this summer for a longer solo look.
My partner kindly came to this show with me, and he's not an artist or art enthusiast. I jokingly introduced him as the "sports and math guy" to Patrick McCay. After the show, I asked my partner which artist's work he liked the most, and which his favorite piece was. He qualified both answers as relative to the other work in the show, as none of it was really his taste. (If you're one of the artists reading this, please don't be offended! I was blown away by the show, and he's more of a pure realism guy.)
This wasn't really a surprise to me, but it made me realize (probably not for the first time) that I became exactly what I never meant to- someone who loves work that the average person shrugs at. Despite growing up in a creative family, that's not really what I came from. I understood this work because of my art degree. There's no turning back from that.
Another realization came to me when I was introduced to someone in the NH art world and had a conversation with them about art and my goals. (Again, if you're reading this, please just be flattered that I took your words to heart! You may have changed my life.) They asked where I would attend graduate school- not if I would. Knowing that it's possible I may work for my alma mater, I mentioned that I'd probably only get it if I did that and could take advantage of the job benefit of a free master's degree. They looked very concerned and told me returning to the same place would be a disservice to myself, and mentioned some other options. In that moment I realized I might just have to do it, go somewhere else, expand my mind in a way I can't do alone. They said if I want national recognition rather than just regional, this is how it's done. (Thanks for the confidence boost that you believe I could get some recognition, by the way!)
Now I'm stuck at the intersection of all this information and my options, feeling like I have to make a choice and stick with it, today.
If I'm a sellout and making my art more business-oriented, is that okay?
What if I don't want to be the chicken girl forever?
But what if I lose the accessibility aspect of my art if I went high-art instead? Can someone who sells paintings for thousands of dollars still sell prints for $20 without cheapening the original?
I don't want to stop my art from becoming what it's meant to be. I don't want to stop thinking while I'm making. I want to keep learning, perhaps at the graduate level, but I can't afford to do so. And even with today's low-residency options, I would have to leave my loved ones for weeks or months on end to sink myself into work so complex they wouldn't understand its purpose. Not that they wouldn't support that work, but I don't want to feel like a snob.
So I feel like I have to make a choice. Do I follow my art to weird territory, shutting people out in the process but someday making a lot better living from it, like I saw at the KJ show? Or do I stay small, local, affordable, like I see at the fairs I do? Do I stay a big fish in a small pond or do I take the chance that usually only those with an inheritance fund do, and try to be a real artist? I can't flip-flop forever. Apparently, these worlds don't mix well. I could do either one. I can't do both anymore.
Some of my best decisions in life have been split-second ones, options that didn't immediately reveal themselves. To take the art class I was too young for. To take a leave of absence from my first college rather than to drop out or keep going. To transfer to my alma mater school- I didn't even apply anywhere else. To enroll in a ceramics minor. I've had a half-dozen of these moments of pure clarity that altered my life and worked themselves out. I think this problem deserves one of those. Option three, I'm waiting on you.