Thursday, June 22, 2006

Advice and Support

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.


painterdog said...

well I'm way over the hill being 40 something approaching 50.
You know something folks you'll will be older next year too.

I hate all this ageism crap, but then I would as I'm old.

I'm not in a gallery, I have been on the margins for so long now its kind of silly. I'm not complaining, this is just how its played out.

So my advice to people who are under 40...
if your not showing enought to make a least half your income and/or you need to work a fulltime job and your going to be turning 40, take a step back and rethink what your doing before it gets to late to make a change.

I kept thinking if I keep going that's what it takes, to just persevere that it will all work out.

Wrong, it only gets harder as you get older, health issues, health insurance or lack of become more accute.

Of course everyone has a different take on this, but I made some mistakes that are now becoming life problems.

Oh yeah money for retirement, by the way after you hit 40 something your going to probaly on day be over 65.

A friend of mine who is in his early fifties said his retirement fund is a bottle of vodka and a snow bank.
He has no health insurance and as he was laid off from his art school job after nearly 20 years, he had to cash out his retirement fund. Can't find a job, spending his retirement money to survive. Stuff happens.

That's some sad shit if you ask me.

Just some food for thought, its only art, if your willing to become old and one of the working poor for it than so be it, but watch out time passes fast.

serena said...

Painterdog, I checked out your website, and your work is stunning. It is far superior, in my opinion, to the vast majority of what I see in Chelsea. I have no advice (!), just an assurance that from my perspective, you haven't wasted your time.

I think it is important to remember that economies have peaks and troughs. The U.S. economy hit a trough just after 9/11, and this forced me to burn my nest egg. You really never know what will happen in the next 10 years or so.

painterdog said...

Thanks for checking out my work as well as the complement.
Its funny I used to do mandalas when I was in high school, so its interesting seeing that you are into it. I remember having a lot satisfaction from doing them.

I didn't mean to say I wasted my time. I enjoyed what I did(do).
Its just I wish I had a better back up plan in place at a younger age. Its only advice, I have tried(still doing it) teaching.
I am doing it now as an adjunct but the pay is so bad. Its not a good living unless you get fulltime.

Its hard trying to get kids into drawing. Jesus its drawing guys! Your in art school, your supposed to like it.

I'm just saying as one gets older the options deminish. I have to paint more, its the only thing I can do.
Man there is one HUGE thunder storm staring up. Better un-plug the machine and tv...

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you think you're too old to get a gallery?

serena said...

Heavens, I DON'T think I'm too old to get a gallery--I was merely responding to the ageism furor that hit Ed's blog, which surprised me because I'm too out of touch with the 'scene' to have noticed it. I'm a gorgeous young woman and galleries should be falling all over themselves to represent me. ;-)