Thursday, November 08, 2007
I took a short studio moratorium while hanging the Blogger Show; it seems to be true that I can only flex my creative muscles in one or two directions at once, and hanging shows is like painting and sculpting using other people's artwork as your raw materials. It's a process I really enjoy, and know that I'm good at. Moreover, I've known many many artists who are not good at it at all, and thus I have no problem with unapologetically taking charge of the process. A bad hanging or lighting job can make a great piece look mediocre, and a mediocre piece look like garbage; a good hanging job, or just lots of clean white walls and good light, can make a mediocre piece look like it's in Chelsea. Oh, wait...
So, anyway, at the opening I had a good chat with Nancy Baker about the blatant sexism of the Art World at the highest levels, the levels where serious money changes hands. It is true, as Tracy Helgeson says, that there are tons of non-NYC galleries run by women, that show lots of women's work--largely work that is pretty, in a recognizable genre like landscape or still life, and breaks no new ground, artistically speaking. It is also true that women who paint like Nancy does have a very hard time selling work outside of NYC. Nancy told me that she has repeatedly been dumped by galleries, even when her work was selling well, and replaced by a good-looking young guy just out of art school. Big Money, and Chelsea dealers, seem to be interested in good-looking young men, and not much else.
This is the kind of thing that I prefer not to think about, for obvious reasons. But when I am forced to think of it, I don't expend much mental energy on getting angry. Instead, it forces me to consciously prioritize my life's goals--because, given that there are enormous obstacles in the way of my achieving even moderate worldly success, I haven't got any energy to waste. I need to remember what the ball is, and keep my eye on it.
So, in no particular order, here is my list of Lifelong Ambitions:
• Design a chapel, in collaboration with an architect (hopefully my brother-in-law, who is something of a genius) and a glassworker. It will be of stone, placed in a rural setting or on a large piece of forested property, with a stream bisecting it from back to front. It will include simple vaults, windows based on my mandala paintings, and lanterns suspended in arcs, parallel to the stream. (At least, these are my preliminary sketches.)
• Form connections with artists and other creative people (musicians, writers, dancers, performers, directors etc.) and work with them on collaborative projects that help extend our joint creative minds in genuinely new and effective ways.
• Have some influence on the way hospitals are designed and fitted out, to make then into genuinely healing environments, and not the nightmarish torture-zones that most of them currently are. (I can and will write an extensive treatise on this subject, soon.)
• Exhibit my work in serious professional galleries, where it gets the press and recognition that it deserves. (This may seem so obvious as to be tautological, but it needs to be stated.)
• Produce museum-quality work that extends the capacities of the human mind--perceptually, imaginatively, and spiritually.
• Create healing and meditative environments at every opportunity.
• Publish at least one book.
Maybe these goals are too general, but it's a working list. I am wary of setting my eye on specific targets that are all too easily shot down by forces beyond my control--i.e. 'I want a solo show at the Whitney by the time I'm thirty-five.' I am equally wary of putting too much weight on what might be called external factors--money, recognition, and fame. It has to be enough to for me to succeed on the terms where I have the most control, which are self-discipline, relationships, and the quality of the work itself.
My biggest enemy, and the biggest fear I have, is that despair over the world's indifference will make me lazy. It has done so many times in the past. My biggest challenge is to overcome my own negative tendencies.