I’ve been making art, studio art, after a twenty year career as a decorative painter since about 2015. I started off with much optimism and I’d say hubris as well. I’d had a relatively successful career as a painter of ornamental schemes and I figured if I put in the work , was as, if not more industrious as I had been with commercial work I’d receive some degree of recognition. It seemed a logical conclusion, very American really, hard work equates success.
That optimistic model doesn’t really apply to a studio career , at least in Los Angeles, I’m pretty certain that is the reality near everywhere. So much seems to influence the move from obscurity to recognition, cynically it does seem to be who you know, who recognizes you and to some degree the work itself , personality seems to have a great deal of social capital as well but fundamentally the influence a person has more broadly (how many followers etc.) can propel a career to an astonishing (disheartening) degree. Add to that mix the relatively recent priority given to identity driven art ; the impetus/demand to throw in the correct hashtag, the most desirable identity driven victimhood intersection, proclaim your work queer, non-binary, trans or some such woke jingo and let the clicking begin…or not.
I’ve tried the hash tagging; the sycophancy; the countless, costly exhibition submissions (with ever increasing rejection notices); the social media attention seeking; the snake-oil publicist route; the humiliating schmoozing; the mortification of fawning over gallery owners, museum directors , art critics; even sucking up to artists with more successful careers, all with the hope that a crumb or two might fall my way. Large sums of money have been spent (squandered) on false hopes and empty promises – those claiming to have the secret of success and recognition and are all too eager to exploit that desperation and lighten your purse in the bargain. In my experience most haven’t the wherewithal to actually fulfill their promises-in all reality how could they?
As I depart LosAngeles, I do so with a sad degree of bitterness, disappointment, and increasingly a sense of humiliation – I feel as if I leave with tail firmly between my legs. , I wish that weren’t so. I wish I could say that though disappointing the experience had been humbling but rewarding . It has however been revelatory in a discouraging way, an inclination towards inwardness. Increasingly I am driven to a resignation of solitude. I will continue to make art, most likely smaller works for my new studio is even smaller than my LA studio, focusing on true loves:drawing, stitchery, panel painting in oil, taking up perhaps relief printmaking. But I am recognizing, reconciling, that I must set aside expectation of the work having broader meaning other than personal…and hopefully to a handful of folks.
Of those folks, I count my chum Jodi, another artist, an artist who’s work we collect, who puzzlingly ,also works in relative obscurity.
We love this beautiful person, of such a gentle, generous, forgiving spirit, one who inspires my better nature . Plus she is a quite the artist, we are fortunate to have quite a few of her pieces in our collection, the latest addition Polyphony from her new Bird series. It will be a fitting and most welcome addition to our Chicago home.
To see more of Jodi’s work follow the link below.
Because I do have so many reminders of Jodi’s talent and spirit in my life I hoped to gift her with my own. Gifting art is a tricky issue. I’ve given art to friends before and humiliatingly they’ve returned it!, that was obviously awkward . It is undeniably presumptuous to assume that though one may be friends that they’d necessarily want pieces of your work taking up valuable space in their home, but nonetheless , Jodi and I share a respect for the craft of art making , animals, the land and its conservation and a general sense of being odd ducks so I took the chance.
I had a few pieces that I felt might symbolize that bond, a textile piece The Green Knight (or The Wodewose) and a drawing Rape of Our Mother.
I hadn’t expected Jodi’s squeal when I handed her The Green Knight. Let’s say it was more gratifying than the above mentioned gift return.
Though I am not sure where she will hang the rather cumbersome framed drawing, I do know where my Green Knight reigneth.
So I leave Los Angeles trying to maintain a sense of perspective, naturally prone to a gloomy outcast, I am heartened. By just posting these fond memories gratitude is triggered for the Anam Cara, the soul-friends, the Lord has placed upon my path. Of which, quite lately, I’ve been blessed to meet a new art chum , a talented writer, wit (she is British after all ), incredibly bright and irreverent , she goes by a few names, I call her Saria, however her nom de plume is Scam Likely. She has become a fast friend and one I will also miss a great deal. She popped over for a studio visit recently and I dubbed her with this scepter, she struck a worthy Valkyrie pose.
I heartily recommend her latest book, its quite funny :
In closing I will explain the first image of this long winded post, an early painting initially called Naked Emperor (I have recently decided upon Los Angeles). Early on in my enthusiasm for a life as a studio painter I had work accepted into a group show-at a museum! I was thrilled, this is so easy I told myself, full of vim, vigor and self importance I attended the opening, certain, cringe worthily certain, that my work, certainly brilliant, would get the attention and respect it deserves. Well suffice to say, it didn’t (it also wasn’t very good ). What did however elicit all manner of oohs and aaahs was a really ridiculous , pretty formulaic bit of installation work, a rusty boxspring, wired with old-timey bare light bulbs and, wait for it, suspended from the ceiling. It was as cringeworthy in its bombast as my own self expectant hubris. But the attendees of the awards program were besides themselves in admiration for its brilliance. I felt alone in my incredulity and of course the Emperor and his new clothes came to mind. Next morning I picked up brushes, new to oil, this was one of my first clumsy experiments with my now medium of choice.
(afterthought, the following image of Punch was the above mentioned, not so very good work)
Jodi admired my Emperor and its sentiment so I gifted him as well.