Pausing in the ‘messy middle.’*

From Jacinda (who says it better than I can):

…I have tried to reconcile this, deciding if it is worthy to pursue (or too insular), but I can’t stop thinking about it. The concept refuses to fade away and I keep taking photographs. I may post a few of them over the next week or two while I formulate the words to describe what this means.

 

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*the ‘messy middle’ is a concept I first read about via Nina Simon. As a total completionist, I find this idea fascinating and scary, and have been experimenting with this concept.

gallery schmallery.

gallery schmallery.

So-

I got rejected from another season at a local art gallery. This probably sounds like the beginning of a whiny rant, but really? I have completely mixed feelings bordering on downright positive.

First of all, the gallery in question is nothing but awesome, AND uses outside artists to judge the entries (so nothing but love for the folks that run it). One of those artists, this year, was none other than Ann Hamilton- meaning, Ann Hamilton has now seen my name and my work. Win! Who cares if there wasn’t a majority vote in it’s favor, I have now shown my work to an artist who’s not only been on PBS (NERDHOLLYWOOD), but whose work I greatly admire. That’s awesome.

But also, I’ve been having lots of mixed feelings about the gallery scene, and my involvement in it (or lack thereof) in general. This is nothing against artists who show their work in galleries- I’m lucky enough to know several amazing artist friends who actively make and show their work all over Columbus and beyond. I respect not just their work, but the drive they have to put themselves out there and make the system work for them- I just don’t know if it’s for me. I love making art, I love giving art as gifts, and I love trading art, whether it’s for more art or for other useful/delicious things (best art trade to date? small installation for a jar of homemade maple syrup.)- but when it comes to assigning a monetary value to it and putting it up for ‘the Art World’ to see, I have feelings that are accurately described as ambivalent.  This isn’t to say that showing work and selling work doesn’t feel good- of course it does. It’s like getting a high score on the SATs after studying for years. But, what do you do when you start to question, not just the score, but the whole system of standardized testing?

The whole thing gets even stickier when what you want to do can’t be sold. Galleries are businesses, so of course they want to put their energy into promoting artists who will help their businesses through sales…so where does this leave artists like myself who sometimes make things, but who feel just as strongly about making spaces or experiences? How do we, as artists, measure success if not through work sold and shows accumulated?

How do you feel? Do you try to show work in galleries? If not, do you still make things? Or, if you don’t make things, how do you get your work out there, how do you push your work to evolve?