The artist must now pass as a figure on the landscape as well as his or her work. Even hiding from it can create a public persona that can affect this. There really is no way of getting around it. We live in a time where it's harmful to not recognize and comsider this as artists. Better to know this going and have a hand in shaping your public persona because if you don't, someone else will, and you may not always like what gets crafted. For what is usually a class of malcontents and privacy protectives, facing forward to the public and taking the initiative is a hard sell. And the better you do, the more successful you are at your work, the more difficult this will be. The stakes get higher and as the circle widens and widens, you'll begin to have less and less control over your public self, no matter what you do. Below is a guide to just a few of the essentials to consider.
Nail Down Your Purpose.Decide not just that you like to make work, but why and to what end. Now if you're in a rarified position where money isn't an issue, this gets cloudier, but for the rest of us coming to see and understand clearly what our purpose is as artists is the best way to manage how we present ourselves as artists. This is likely the hardest part and the one that's going to come only after you need it. It comes down to having a clear and cogent understanding of your work, and where it's center lies, and I confess I am still trying to sharpen focus on that one after twenty years of professional work. Even so, the sooner you get a solid sense of what the trunk of your tree is, the branches and all that business with leaves and fruit will come later and more easily. You'll be able to spot what is a proper venue to put a public face on your art, and what isn't. You'll develop the keen and enviable sense to detect a bad move or a wrong kind of interview before it gets out of hand. And when speaking publicly, whether it's a simple Q&A, or a long form podcast interview, you'll keep to your task, and get in front of your skis- whether that means not disclosing a pre-publication secret, or getting overly smug or inappropriately jokey in a public forum that can rebound back to you and how your work is seen in a negative light. In all fairness this should be last on this list, but given it's the most important bit... well here it is at top.
It's different for men and women.Sad but true and not to be forgotten. Men are seen with a far less critical lens and must carry even less baggage when it comes to how they choose to present themselves with their work to a public audience. It's easier for men and it's kinder. It's not fair and it's getting better, but painfully slowly and never fast enough in my opinion. The objectification brambles are real and they are serious and it's a good idea to know this going in- not to dissuade any women artists for going in, (in fact I'd love to see the exact opposite), but to know the landscape and its laws before they hit you in the face. Women know this already for the most part having to live with it their whole lives, but we men need to be better aware of it so we can know how to speak to it intelligently and defend our fellow artists when they need it. Honestly the differences and peculiarities of how a male and a female artist's experiences differ deserves an entire post. And it'd still not be enough. There's a long history of ugliness that can be entirely seen as cause for this kind of interaction to be fraught and tricky. It doesn't have to be, and the backwards facing types that haven't moved passed the gender restrictions of the last century are sometimes best combatted by being dismissed or ignored outright. Never let another tell you who you are and what you should be doing, especially with your art.
Don't blur the lines between the artist and the work.
Don't confuse your ego with your art.
Choose how much you want to be out there, and stick to your guns.
|DEADLINES from The 52 Weeks Project|
Beware the pigeon hole and the siren song of success too early.
|Sample art for THE SEA SCARF|
The pitfalls and successes of social networking are real and lasting.
|Jeff Mack and myself at a school event |
Don't be a jerk.
|The Torment of Saint Anthony|
Learn how to speak cogently about what you do.
|NORMAN ROCKWELL for Slate.com|
|SIX WORD TALES collaboration |
with Stiles White