In the last post I discussed some new pictures I am working on called: Monsters
If you haven't read that one you might want to before you get to this one, as this post refers to the new work.
Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA
If you've read my posts before you know I like hypotheticals and this one will do that again.
Lucy is a mid career professional artist with some serious shows to her credit, a strong following of repeat collectors of her work, several pieces in museum permanent collections and a local gallery that represents her. Her work is categorized, defined by what she's done and therefore people think of her art in a certain way. Her gallery also does this, choosing to combine her paintings with other similar works by other artists in shows that fit a certain look. She seldom gets one person shows. She sells work occasionally and derives some income from her art but supplements this by also having a day job working for a flower distributor in the office handling shipping and placing orders. Lucy is relatively content but realizes that she is also a little trapped in the safety and comfort of being successful and held in high regard by her peers, colleagues and fellow artists. She'd like to do something different but is insecure about how new and different work might be received. She's experimented with making new work in her studio but knows that it lacks conviction due to her timidity about putting it out into the community of those whose opinions she respects. To some extent, the work she's done confines her to making new work "fit in"to her former self, or at least to the work her former self made. Lucy feels that as she's grown and matured as an artist she has changed but she has been unable to allow her work to change as the constraints placed on her previous successful self prevent new manners of expression. Lucy feels trapped and afraid to take risk.
Wheat, near Pullman,WA (this image recently acquired by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Cabelas, Prairie Du Chein, Wisconsin
Meghan is also a mid career artist with a very similar profile: museum shows, a gallery, some sales, collectors buying her work and so on. Meghan is different, however, in that she hasn't fit into any particular category in her art. This has both benefitted her as she has been free to pick up different forms of expression throughout her career as an artist but it has also hurt her. Each time she changes her art, she does gain a new following but also loses some of the former group of people that liked what she did before. She knows this, but wants her art to be a reflection of her present life, not be held by a definition of her former self. Meghan's game is one of embracing risk in all its forms and the hell with the consequences. She is okay with losing some people that follow and like her work. However, her lack of conforming has hurt her most with museum curators who are often impressed with what she shows them but then, when delving deeper, find a career that has produced work that is erratic, disorganized and difficult to categorize.
Reggio Emilia, Italy
In each scenario both artists have parts that are good and parts that are not so good. In the life of a professional artist risk needs to play a large role. Taking risk makes new. For an early artist all is risk, each time is something new. To a seasoned artist, risk is most likely taken in a more calculated way, bending and massaging one's work to effect an outcome that is rich and diverse. But risk, making work that is different and edgy and visceral, is essential.
Costume World, MA
Risk averse? Afraid you'll be scorned or ridiculed by those whose opinions matter to you? Think about it this way. You've already established real credibility. The work you've done, the platform of work that is finished and in your past is the very foundation with which you can branch out and feel free to play or do something new, different and edgy. You already are "valid". Now use that validity to go kick some ass.