So many folks are thoughtfully and often with great introspection finding meaning in the human experience of the pandemic. I have been doing my habitual undisciplined musing on that and almost anything/everything else, without creating the mental space necessary to really focus on the issue. All of the reminders to value what we have are lovely now as before, but I feel that there is something more here.
I know that any train of thought that I might develop matters little in this giant sea of change and pain. But one of the reasons that I started writing a blog about ten years ago was to bring a little form to my musings, teasing out something resembling conclusions from the mishmash.
I have been considering the twin truths of life being brutal and life being magnificent.
“Life is nasty, brutish, and short.”
I looked up this quote in Writing Explained to make sure that I had it right, and lo, look what I found in the explanation:
“This expression comes from the author Thomas Hobbes, in his work Leviathan, from the year 1651.
He believed that without a central government, there would be no culture, no society, and it would seem like all men were at war with one another.
- In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
If this does not hit home in our present circumstances, I don’t know what does. As the federal government has been working for 3+ years to dismantle our government itself in favor of an oligarchy run by big money, it has also undermined the response to the virus, making life much, much nastier and shorter for many.
What is the antidote, on a personal level?
The question of what is magnificent is is almost self-evident, so let’s shift that to—what is meaningful?
For me, family, studio practice, yoga, nature, close friends, wider arts community. Now as before. I am incredibly fortunate that much of that is as accessible now as always, maybe more so.
The creative practice is huge, almost a living, breathing thing.
In person and physical contact with family, friends, and the wider community is where we feel our loss most keenly. In our far-flung life-style, many friendships were already carried forward through social media, phone, email, and/or some form of live streaming; but in those cases, we also often lamented the distance. Here, we can look to appreciate all of those forms of communication—just imagine if we didn’t have them!—and also soften into the anticipation of being unselfconsciously with others again.
For a discussion of living in the Catskills during the pandemic and on avoiding the grass-is-greener trap, follow this link to a recent short phone interview with Brett Barry or Silver Hollow Audio, who is producing a new podcast platform, Kaatscast (you may recognize him from WAMC’s Soundbeat).
As the virus has doubled down on our resources, we can only double down on what we love, exploring new possibilities and cherishing the ongoing ones that are possible, albeit sometimes in an altered fashion, in these times.
I started this post before the murder-by-cop of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that have erupted around the nation in the past few days. Is it possible that we have finally had enough, that this is a defining moment in our nation? And is it possible that the pandemic has played some part in our determination to change the culture and address racism head-on, after seeing the larger number of deaths from Covid-19 in black and brown communities? Are we in fact stronger, having gained fresh perspective on what is important?
I am sharing a painful yet brilliant drawing by my friend Veronica Lawlor.
You can view her blog here:
Building on what we have that we value most, this can be a moment of desperately needed change. If finally moving to reform the culture of a racist and violent police force comes out of this period, we will have significantly moved the dial forward in America.
The very idea of functioning in the marketplace often brings up feelings of fear and dread for artists. Add to that the sense of being an outsider and you have an inner construct of resistance and defensiveness (you reject me?—I reject you!). As a result, some artists simply never step out of their studios with their work, while others resign themselves to the effort, but do it sporadically and badly, carrying their baggage of resistance.
As a full time, self-supporting artist, exhibiting in multiple galleries for decades, I have followed my natural curiosity about how things work, consistently gathering information from my galleries, my artist friends, and my collectors about how art and sales are successfully made. Finding myself frequently passing this information on to fellow artists at openings and other events, I decided to more actively share my knowledge, forming in 2006 my first mentoring group. Blending the modalities of coaching, support groups, and seminars on career development (and designed to be affordable for artists), my groups have been filled through word of mouth.
It pleases me greatly to help other artists mitigate their anxiety about the process of entering or participating in the art marketplace. Many times artists are in isolation, reinventing the wheel, when the information that they need is fairly straightforward. Other times, situations have their own wrinkle and require the targeted advice that comes from experience. In either case, I love sharing what I know, and also enjoy working with the highly diverse bodies of work presented by the artists who I mentor.
Mentoring support is designed to help artists in any and all areas needed to help them progress on their paths, both artistically and in the marketplace.
The areas in need of support vary from artist to artist, but include:
-Focusing on art-making via a body of work that explores, with consistency and depth, a unique set of interests.
-Learning to network effectively with other artists and developing a collector list; the use of email, social networking, websites and blogs.
-Helping the artist understand the difference between the venues available for exhibiting art: finding those that are appropriate to their work and experience; discussing how these relationships work and how to navigate them.
-Creating all of the written pieces that are a requirement for the exhibiting (and submitting) artist—resume, artist’s statement, bio—and in the process, becoming comfortable with any piece of writing called for in future relationships and events.
-Pricing: framing, mounting, or 3-di presentation; studio and file organization; selecting work for a show or submission; and open studio or studio tour events.
-Learning to speak about one’s work, which then applies to all of the situations where that not only gives the artist an edge, but also allows them the confidence and peace of mind that they can conduct these conversations effectively (and even have fun doing it).
-Issues of self-confidence, not getting waylaid by setbacks, and developing a proactive habit of ethical self-advocacy.
My intake workshop is the intro to this work, but can also stand on its own as a way of advancing and inspiring an artist’s career. This is a day-long seminar that includes much information necessary to understanding the functioning of the art world, and an opportunity for each artist to show their work and air their issues, followed by advice from me and feedback from the group.
Monthly meetings are three hours long, and open to all who have attended an intake workshop for new artists or have had a private consult with me. With a current pool of about 40 artists, each meeting capped at six artists, the mix for any particular meeting is always interesting and invigorating. Each artist brings in work or concerns that are current, with a round-robin discussion that gives the artist time to seek advice for particular or pressing concerns.
Private sessions are in the artist’s studio, when geographically possible, or through a combination of email and phone. All of the above areas are covered, with the targeted focus of one-on-one. I am available to help organize and select work for an upcoming exhibit; sequence the hanging of a show; help prep an artist’s studio for an open studio event; and work with the public if the artist is not prepared to do so.
Phone consults are available as needed, often in conjunction with emailed images or documents requiring feedback, sometimes supplementing studio visits and/or monthly meetings.
“In the six years that I have been working with Christie, her mentoring has opened up a new vocabulary and path of action for approaching art as a vocation, as well as a broader appreciation for what other artists are accomplishing in their practices. Producing art can be a lonely process, and Christie has provided many opportunities to get feedback on work, find outlets, meet other artists and most importantly, work out the next step.”
Kari Feuer, 2012
“When I finally bit the bullet and enrolled in my first mentoring session with Christie, one of the other participants was shocked that I was there, asking for help with my career. Well, I was stuck and unsure about what to do next. My work was, and still is, at a good level but my career was stalled. I had always admired Christie’s grasp of the business of art and I wanted to learn, so there I was. I am moving forward now, thanks to working with Christie; and I have peers with whom I can discuss ideas, in a safe, calm, and respectful environment. I now, when finding myself in an art situation that I am unsure how to handle, ask myself “What would Christie do?” And I do it. And it works.”
Polly Law, 2012