When I was starting out as an artist, I desperately wanted to get into shows. And I just couldn't. I didn't know anybody, and nobody would show my work. I wasn't very good at the time, and I had no idea how the so-called art world functioned. All I knew was that I was churning out drawings and paintings, and showing them to my roommate and my girlfriend, and stacking them in a closet. It upset me terribly. I thought I would never get anywhere. Sometimes it felt like an electric current was passing through me, making me quake with misery.
This must sound very silly. So much fuss over something so flimsy and unimportant! But it's no joke from the inside. This is real life - there's only so much of it, and then it's over. Without at least a touch of validation, you have no evidence but your faith in yourself that you aren't wasting your short life. Your faith in yourself can last a long, long time. But it runs out eventually. Then the deep panic sets in.
I think this early experience is shared by many artists. For many artists it goes on for many years. I know it did for me. I got into my first real show in 2009, but I didn't get into much of anything after that for a while. And then, because I kept at it, and got better at it, and sucked up the heartache and kept applying, I finally started to pick up a little steam. I felt my way around. I learned which galleries showed which kinds of art. I got to know who all those pretty people at the openings were. I started showing more frequently, and the quality of the shows improved.
Today I keep a spreadsheet so I won't forget what's showing where and when.
I still do not feel successful, and perhaps I never can. But the panic has receded a bit, for now. And sometimes a privilege is passed along to me. It might not mean much to somebody else, but it happens to be just right for me.
Here is an instance of such a privilege - comments from the curators explaining their concept for Mementos, a group show I've been invited to take part in on Friday:
"What a divine occurrence to have such a profound connection to an experience, to take a piece of it home to cherish - an emblem that takes us back to that sweet moment of pleasure, joy, and serenity."
How generous a view of art, and of art-buying, this is: that art has a place in it for kindness, for innocence, for joys as light as feathers - and that the acquisition of art stands transformed in this kindness from the anxious and addictive affair the hot market has turned it into, and becomes again what it started as - a ceremony performing the first act of a happy and life-long recollection.
This comes from Michelle Doll and Lisa Lebofsky, whom I know mainly as artists, and admire tremendously. To a very great extent, this is what I was clawing toward through those lonely years: to see serious and accomplished art, to meet the people who made it, and to be invited into their society, and to have my work share walls with theirs.
This show is a project of Stefania Panepinto's S Panepinto Galleries. Stefania, Michelle, and Lisa - thank you for having me.
If anyone reading this can make it to the opening, I'll be there toward the end (coming, as I am, from two islands over), and I'd be glad to see you. Installation views of some of the work appear in the slideshow below.
S Panepinto Galleries
70 Christopher Columbus Drive, Jersey City, NJ 07302
February 5, 5pm-9pm (sunset cocktails from the 50th Floor)
Sat & Sun, 1pm-7pm through March 6
Additionally available by appointment