I’m an “emerging” artist. This means, in my mind, that I don’t have people. Let me explain. A lot of the time, I feel like I’m operating off on my own – no one really is paying attention to what I’m doing, I have no dialogue, no discourse with a larger community. This is frequently frustrating. Very.
This is not to say that I’m not trying to engage with a larger community. I’ve got this here blog to prove it. I also beat myself over the head by constantly submitting my work to calls for entry (and mostly getting rejected). And I have a website. And in general, I pray that I somehow, mysteriously, get “found.” I’m even paying money for a shared studio space where there are biannual Open Studios.
Now, I know that things don’t always happen overnight. I’m not even a year out of graduate school. And in all seriousness, I’m not specifically looking for widespread fame and fortune. I hate people a bit too much for that. It’s more that one of the primary reasons that I make art is that I think there is power in non verbal communication – it makes your brain function differently, and this fascinates me. And I want to engage with other people who think this way, see their work, talk with them about their ideas, see how they solve similar problems. And without people, I don’t get my dialogue, which occasionally, when I’m having a particularly crappy day, makes me question why I bother.
So, this isn’t just a rant. I’m seriously asking for feedback on this. I know there’s the accepted route – go to grad school, make connections, schmooze with the high-rollers, put your work in front of everyone and get into the gallery scene. Unfortunately, this route doesn’t work so well for me. My work is not in sync with the majority view of fine art photography. I’m what you’d call a niche market. And I’m ok with that – I kinda like it. But the accepted route become significantly less feasible when you deviate from the norm, and that route is already sucky.
Now there’s this alternative – viral visibility via the interwebs. Get on Facebook, get on Twitter, write a blog (ahem), comment on everything related to your field of expertise and become noticed for what you say and how you’re represented online. Which I think is amazing. All of a sudden, those curators, gallery owners and critics aren’t the sole gatekeepers to a career as an artist. But there are limitations here too – even if you become engaged, part of the dialogue, by the nature of the very interwebs that make this all possible, everything is virtual. Again, my work kinda takes a hit here. Large-scale mural photograms that are abstract don’t really translate very well into jpegs. And not only that, I love that you can see so much, do so much research online, so much more is simply available. However, this really doesn’t replace seeing something in person. At least for me, art is still physical, something you interact with in time and space. Yes, there is tons of amazing art that is perfectly suited to being seen solely online, or dually online and in person, but there are whole genres of art that don’t pack the same punch on a flat screen. Unless something was specifically created to be seen online in this environment, a little something is lost in the translation, I think.
Again, I’m not just complaining here. I want there to be more options. I recently moved back to Boston, and I’m trying to reconnect with the local art scene here. Now, I know all about First Fridays, and all of the schools and non-profit spaces and online local blogs like Big RED & Shiny. But I don’t know anyone outside of my immediate sphere. There’s no central resource that allows people who are interested to meet up with like minded people. And I always feel like the different disciplines are so segregated. Yes, my primary medium is photography. But I get just as much inspiration from drawing and sound and installation art as I do from photography. So, wouldn’t it be amazing, now that we have all these social networking sites, if we actually used them to socialize in person, rather than just online. Have the networks be tools that let you find like-minded people who are passionate about similar things, set it up so if someone knows of an amazing space in the city that supports local artists, those very same artists can connect with the space without have to troll through countless blogs and websites. Why do we each have to do all of this research independently? I feel like I’m constantly reinventing the wheel! I know there are tons of people out there that are doing the same kind of searches that I’m doing, but there’s no one way to do anything. Are we just so inherently competitive and insecure that we don’t want to share what we already know?
I don’t have a good answer. Maybe someday I’ll start my own centralized resource site, but as I said earlier, I don’t really have any people – who’d even know that I’d set it up?