The latest news in the mandala series is that now I have started on a seven-part 'totem' piece, which I will only post when I've finished all seven.
So for today, I have decided to comment on an issue which came up for me when reading Ed Winkleman's post, on the art world's alleged current obsession with youth. I have to admit that this issue has totally escaped me, since back when I WAS a callow young artist, I got slapped in the face enough times that I decided to go away and mature, and stop looking for gallery representation until I was a grown-up. Now I sort of think I AM a grown-up, and have peeped my nose into the gallery system once again, only to discover that I waited too long. Drat.
Be that as it may, the tangential issue which arose in my mind was the difference between offering advice to a young, struggling artist (or an old struggling artist) and actually supporting that artist. Advice without support may sometimes be wise, but it is not always helpful, and can frequently be counterproductive. Support, on the other hand, is NOT about taking responsibility for another person's career; it simply means taking some practical action on another person's behalf, if that action is easy for you, and if you genuinely believe the other person deserves it.
Advice, then, is saying "You should show your work to such-and-such gallery." Support is going to the dealer who is a personal friend of yours and saying, "So-and-so is talented and underrepresented, and I believe her work would fit nicely with your style." Because every artist knows that if you march into a gallery without an introduction and say, "Will you look at my work?" ninety-nine out of a hundred dealers will say, "Sorry, we're not taking submissions now." (I even had one gallerist follow this up with "It's a waste of time for me to look at your work," even though I had done my homework and attended every exhibition that this gallery had mounted for over a year.)
Advice is saying "You should show your work on the Upper East Side--that's your market." Support is actually showing up when your friend gets a show on the Upper East Side, bringing your wealthy Upper East Side relatives and mentioning it to the fifteen or twenty dealers you know personally.
Advice is critiquing someone's website or blog; support is linking to it and writing about the work. (Thank you, Chris.) Advice is saying, "your work would do well in X-Y-Z industry;" support is saying, "I have some personal connections in X-Y-Z industry. Would it be helpful for me to run your work by them?"
Advice is saying "You're a good artist and should be selling these;" support is actually buying them.
I know that all of this seems more than obvious. But what perhaps people don't always realize is that well-meaning advice can come across as more of a burden than a help. Sometimes the most supportive thing a friend can do is just sit and silently commiserate while you vent.