To show or not to show?

Well, my head has begun to clear as the weather has started making the turn towards spring these past few days. With that, I have come to a greater clarity about my hesitation to enter the "gallery game". I want to state here, at the beginning, that I have nothing against nor do I feel superior to artists who make a living selling their work or performing their craft. Far from it. I think an artist should be able to live and work and concentrate fully on their art work. What I have a problem with is the incessant need to place price tags on individual work, or groups of works, thereby changing a piece of art into just another commodity to buy and sell. In the end, I think this cheapens the work of the artists by forcing an easily definable box around that which is not easily definable. It obfuscates and distracts those experiencing the work from the full impact and message of the work. In a bad analogy, it is like the use of thick black borders and capital letters used to express Surgeon General’s warnings, they overpower and thus obscure the true message.

This is my sole reason for no longer selling my work or continuing to pursue shows in “for profit” galleries. Although I am sure this will come off as both condescending and na├»ve, I find the commodification of my work seeps into the making of my work and undermines all my efforts. It leads to passionless work and half-baked concepts watered down by an effort to please rather than an effort to express in actions as hard as cannonballs. But, I do not want to hide my work away, either. Something better than the competitive and commodified artistic pursuit inherent in the gallery process that currently dominates how most artists display their work needs to be devised. I have come up with only a couple of options to this standard system, neither of which will lead to a “career” as an artist or allow me to live by my artwork alone:

1) Show my work in nonprofit or educational galleries only, like Tower Hill School where shows are matched with a guest artist lecture to the students.

2) Spread my art through gifting.

The first option is where I am once again heading. I like the fact that I can not only share my artistic expression with others, but do so in such a way that avoids the effects of trying to fit into a trend or sell my work. It also has the added bonus of usually allowing me to use my artwork as an avenue towards teaching about art, a growing passion of mine since I began teaching at the College of Southern Maryland. This is a heady mix indeed and one that I plan on imbibing more often.

The second option is what I have been doing since I began making art. It allows me to literally give a part of myself to others in my life. Not only am I sharing my art, but I am hopefully creating closer ties with those around me. And though this smacks of rampant idealism, it is particularly powerful to me the act of using my art to connect myself to others as a primary goal rather than as secondary to setting myself apart from other artists.

Eric in a Word: satisdiction

Book of the Day: The Enchiridion by Epictetus, tr Elizabeth Carter

Song of the Day: Baharim - Balkan Beat Box

Religious Figure of the Day: Nyx

Sketch medium: graphite and glue on Stride gum pack top (3.25" x 2")


Rosetta Thurman said...

I, too, am an idealist running rampant. Someone should get us off the streets!

Eric Giles said...

I don't think they'd like that, Ro. An idealist confined is almost as dangerous as a group of idealists working together- combustible.