There is no doubt that my time on the phone chatting to the gallery directors about what they want to exhibit and why has turned my attitude about my own work full circle! Just before, I felt artistically despondent without seeing any recent validation for my life’s work. I have been feeling more so ever since the completion of my recent PhD. I wondered if I was after money or perhaps a huge reputation to complete my feeling of self purpose in art. NOT SO! True, I would not turn down fame or fortune but discourse about my work in truly interested and knowledgeable company suffices at this time. It has done wonders for me! I even think I can tackle my office and studio cleanup now.
When faced with the seemingly insurmountable odds against becoming ‘an artist of note’, I frequently find myself at the point of despair. This happened again recently with my visit to Paddington where ‘real artists’ are presented daily to a buying public in the best spaces by the best galleries at the best five digit prices. When with immense bravery I inquired about whether I could send in a CV and some images for the Director’s perusal, I was met with a nonplussed stare. The cool receptionist tried her best not to be patronizing but what she said settled that. ‘Our Director only exhibits those who she herself has noticed on the art scene. Perhaps you could try the artist’s run initiatives and work at coming up through the ranks.’ This was actually good advice – for someone just starting out and in their mid-twenties. For me, on the other hand, it was immensely degrading. I am aware that I am not known in any capacity in NSW, but the presumption is that I am, therefore, not a quality artist. Should I believe this? No!
‘Use everything in your life to create art’ is what the playwright, Sidda, in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was told by her colleagues when her mother cruelly upstaged her once again.
Yet, in the still, wee hours of the night……..and I am awake, thinking…I could do without this eternal struggle.
You might think I am being amusing here but the answer to this witticism is of very real concern for me. Once upon a time I thought that if I was a really good artist and worked diligently day and night, I would be rewarded with fame or fortune or quite possibly, both. But I was wrong! So wrong.
Neither ‘talent’ nor ‘hard work’ in themselves produce the necessary kudos or shall I say, validation needed for becoming an artist. At least, one who considers oneself ‘viable’. I now think the main quality needed is simply the ability to NOT know when to say ‘Enough of this foolhardy life’ and then quit.
I have spared no faithfulness to the practice of art – apart from not sleeping with the right people. I have kept up with contemporary art practices – traveling to Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, The International Melbourne Arts Festival, Sydney’s Primavera 2008, Canberra’s exhibition by Bill Viola and others. I have up-graded my academics – MFA from Monash University in 2002 and a creative PhD from Victoria University in 2007; articles to peer assessed journals, international speaking engagements and more. I work in the latest media – digital production and installation with maximum material application, having once been solely a watercolourist. Still, have I made it as an artist?
Having completed my PhD with flying colours, I decided to take my ten years of art production ‘out for a spin’ in 2006. I was so successful at applying for the best in prizes and awards and grants that I received a rejection letter at least once or twice a week, sometimes on the same day, until Christmas. Within a few months, I was completely disheartened – the equivalent of an artistic grease spot. Where was the reward for believing in all I did for art? It was only vapor.
I wanted to give up. I wished for any excuse to stop arting. I asked the heavens, ‘Why am I doing this?
And another day goes by…
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