I’ve been thinking a lot about my art lately. And by lately, I mean since this past October or so. I spent a really long time working on the last DDC album and live performances, and I was just really starting to feel the itch to work on my printmaking again. I hadn’t touched any of it since my show in December 2008. It was time.
To become motivated enough to ensure output, I generally like to have a show scheduled so that there’s a real deadline to be met. When possible, I give myself several months so that the show is populated with as much new work as possible. There was already a vague theme in mind for the new work, and a few specific printing methods that I wanted to focus on. A few sketches, and a bunch of notes and lists were being compiled. That’s how it all starts. Then my Mother died, which caused some of my attention to shift elsewhere. Then my Grandmother died, which immediately caused just about all attention to shift elsewhere. All of a sudden I was thrown into dealing with funeral shit, family shit, moving out of my apartment, and the still-unfolding bullshit saga of taking actual ownership of the house I grew up in. Not to mention having portions of it rebuilt. All the while I’ve been playing a large role in building up and working in a recording studio that I hope brings in some consistent income at some point. My goal of a solo show in August or September is no longer an option.
As of now, I’m back to the thinking, sketching, and writing that will eventually lead to new prints. I’ve also been taking steps toward finding and securing a suitable venue for my next show, which, if I have my way, will be in May 2011. As this time has passed, I’ve occasionally looked back over my past work, especially the prints that made up my last show. In doing so, I’ve been able to see which things most represent what I want my art to be. For better or worse, those things that I like the best seem to be the most far away from what I see so much of around Philadelphia. I’m not sure if that will come to help me or hurt me in the long run, but the cynical majority of my brain tends to think that it will probably work against my chances of showing in more significant spaces.
Come to think of it, what does “significant spaces” even mean? My big illegal posters of Mike Tyson, Sade, and Pete Townshend have surely been seen by more people than any of the stuff I’ve had hanging in shows. While I’ve had what I considered respectable headcounts at my openings, it’s never been anything that resembles the mob scene that happens at the Crane Arts building or the fancy pants Old City galleries, just like the cash generated at my shows probably doesn’t resemble what’s going on over there either. Now I’m rambling on about headcounts and cash like some greedy corporate executive… is that what it’s about? Money? The easy, and honest-to-a-point answer is no. Of course not. I make my art (and music) because I feel compelled to express myself using the images and sounds that appear in my mind as I trudge through life. And on top of that, I truly enjoy the processes used to create these things, and the feeling I get when I accomplish an artistic goal. But at the end of the day, after I’ve spent a year or more making an album or a bunch of new artwork, just showing it to myself doesn’t feel quite good enough. Part of me needs people to see it. The more the merrier. And when creating what I create costs me money, I feel some pressure to try and make that money back or, dare I say it, make some profit.
So far I’ve mentioned spaces to show art, and money. They come together in a big way in Philadelphia (and other cities too I’m sure) in the form of co-op galleries. This is a gallery that has a group of artist members who pay to be a part of the group. In exchange for your money you get to say you’re part of that group and you get to hang your work there at specified intervals. The cost is pretty steep, but first you need to be voted in. The example I’ll use is Nexus. I choose that one because it’s the main co-op that I’ve ever considered applying to. I’ve been there many times when it lived in Old City as well as its current home in the Crane Arts building. My good friend Rebecca Gilbert is a member there, and aside from being my printmaking Yoda, she’s an all-around awesome artist and teacher who is incredibly dedicated to her craft. If she thinks it’s good to be a member there, the idea is worth at least looking into. Here are the benefits and responsibilities as listed on the Nexus web site:
• Solo exhibition every two years
• Group member exhibitions
• Exchange exhibitions with other galleries
• Curatorial opportunities
• 0% commission on sales
• Access to exhibition opportunities and calls for entry
• Gain experience with gallery preparation and arts administration
• Access to funding
• $100 initiation fee
• $50 monthly dues
• One day a month of gallery staffing
• Four hours of gallery-related work each calendar quarter
• Attendance at membership meetings
• Attendance at artist membership reviews
• Two year membership contract
Since the contract is for two years, you are guaranteed to pay $1,300 and have one solo show. And I’m not 100% certain, but the “solo” show may actually be split with another person. Maybe not a big deal since the space is pretty big, but worth mentioning. So, for it to make good financial sense, you have to believe that the one show you are guaranteed to have will generate at least $1,300 is sales. And that’s assuming the art in that show costs nothing to make, which is impossible. Now, it’s not a purely financial decision either. Aside from the show, you get to make connections, surround yourself with artist peers, and have a nice line on your résumé.
This is all quite a lot to think about. My goal for my next show is simply to have it be a significant improvement over my last one. I have no idea where or when it will take place, but I’m certain that it will be my best work to date.