Monday, March 17, 2014

Day forty-one : Create your own definition of success.

Image above, Lee Bontecou in her studio.

A friend posted this on Facebook last week: I've wanted to "make it" as an artist for a while now. Now I'm not sure what that means. What does it mean to you?

What I want for my 'art' and what I want for my 'art career' are different. I keep getting lost in between the two. Then I start to think about all of my goals for what I want to make and that makes the question even bigger. In part, I just want to make art, and be sure that making is some part of every single day. Then it's about what I want my art to do. I started thinking about this during my vacation at at Christmas.

I want my work to be radiant and stop time. I want my work to contain the awe inherent in our awareness of the temporarily of life and the power of our smallest gestures. The wonder inspired by how little we understand in our universe and how much that says about what is possible.

After stating and remembering that, it makes what I want for my art career seem inconsequential. It would be great to show at the Hammer, or be in the Whitney Biennial, or Documenta,to install in Versailles or to suspend work from the now-defunct Bay Bridge. I want to do a Skowhegan Residency and to have a solo show in Chelsea. But that's not the big picture, and I'll be happy with my art career if I never do any of those things. Those benchmarks aren't really what I'm hungry for.

I read a lot of artist statements at work. It gets really old hearing every statement start with "When I was a child..." because every single person does it. And I feel mean saying this, but, no one cares. No one in the art world gives a damn about your childhood unless you make them care, and your work should do that. I say this because I get it. My childhood was really beautiful in some ways and had some really hard parts too. And I carry them with me. And they affect why I make art.

At some point in my childhood I was crawling out of my skin I was so lonely and making art changed that while I was making it. So I kept doing it. I was terrified at strange moments that I couldn't explain, and making art and learning about other artists gave me the courage to take risks, to travel, and to experience things that were unfamiliar to me and to the people who defined my world. Living as an artist has made my life rich and complex and makes me feel whole, when I didn't before.

If I can make art that makes even one person feel that way, then I feel like I've done a pretty damn good job. And maybe I'm just having an idealistic moment, but right now I believe that way down in my bones.

How would you define success for yourself as an artist?

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