Friday, January 21, 2011

A Better Way to Jump the Shark

copyright Hannah Phelps
View from Robert's House
oil on canvas, 6" x 12"

Quite a few months ago, a friend invited me to attend a panel discussion with her. The event, entitled “Surviving and Thriving in the Art World”, included some of New Hampshire’s best known artists, a gallery owner and a museum curator - all individuals I consider successful in their fields. If they were going to divulge their secrets to success in the art world, I was interested.

The moderator led the discussion with a pretty general question: “What is your number one advice for artists?”

The answer was a very long conversation between two of the panelists, a well-respected painter and the museum curator, about how horribly unfair the “art world” is and how hard it is for an artist to get their work noticed because of the skewed definition of what “art” is these days exemplified by the formaldehyde shark piece by Damien Hirst

I was feeling inspired already.

Then some of the other artists recounted their early days when they had no health insurance and wondered how they were going to feed their children. Teachers and school systems were blamed for not adequately educating children about the value of art. And then more depressing stories about rejection, lack of funds and horrible day jobs to earn any money at all (including hated teaching gigs).

There was a tiny mention of committing to your craft and keeping the passion for what you do to sustain you through the tough times.

Then some more talk about the formaldehyde shark and sensationalism replacing serious works of art in museums, galleries and public spaces, making it hard for a real artist to scrape out a living.

You don’t want to end an evening like this on the wrong note, after all.

I am not going to tell you who any of these people were or where the panel was located. I respect all of them and the work that they do. And, in my personal experience with many of them, they are nice, generous folks. But they disappointed me that evening.

I don’t need to go out of my way to have a debate about what art is or isn’t or who should get public funding and who shouldn’t or any other related topic. 
I hang out with artists all the time. I can have this conversation all day, everyday with a very willing audience. I know where to find the blogs and websites devoted to this very issue - those that find no value in the type of work I do because it is unimaginative and “too easy” to “copy” my environment and those that rage against all the conceptual, post-modern “crap” that demeans Art and steals resources from “real artists”.

And you know what? I spend zero time looking at those sites, reading any articles about any of this or engaged in conversations about the definition of “art”.

Do I think that a lot of people are spending too much money on terrible art? 
Yeah, I really do. Do I care? Not really. Anyone who is going to spend millions of dollars on rotting food sculptures, portraits made out of found heroin needles or toilet installations probably wouldn’t buy one of my landscapes anyway. That type of art enthusiast usually doesn’t respect the work I create any more than I would want a tour of their personalized collection.

The art world has split in two. That other half has nothing to do with me, so I don’t pay any more attention to it than I do golf tournaments, NASCAR or entertainment “news”.

It is easy to sit around and blame a corrupt and unfair system full of ignorance and spite for your lack of success. In any field. 
It is harder to ignore all that buzz, find the individuals and communities who will appreciate you and your work, and get down to business. You can spend your energy getting upset about a $12 million dollar dead shark at the Met. I have art to make.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lovin' 2011

copyright Hannah Phelps
Stuffed Puppylove
white-line woodcut print
6.5" x 6.5" approximate image size

I hope you are already having a wonderful New Year!

I can tell you definitively that I am, because my artwork is already in THREE shows in January!

While you can always check the sidebar on the right to see where my art is on display, here is a quick overview of this months events:

Love, Lust and Desire
January 25 - February 12
Reception Friday, January 28th, 5-7 pm
(Snow date: Feb 4)

This is McGowan Fine Art's Third Annual Valentine Show, so all the work is a perfect gift-giving size (under 8.5" x 11"). If you are looking for a "heartfelt" present for that special someone, this is the show for you.  I will have three prints in this show, including the one above.

Prints of the Year
January 10 - April 1

This exhibit at the Pierce Law Center in Concord, NH showcases work by New Hampshire printmakers created in 2010. Last year, I enjoyed attending this show and seeing the seemingly endless examples of what "printmaking" can mean.

This year, I can't wait to see what my fellow New Hampshire artists have accomplished. I am also proud to be showing alongside them with two white-line woodcuts. Look forward to more info about this exhibit soon!

until January 21

This small works exhibit at Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye, NH is up for a couple more weeks, so there is still time to see my oil paintings there.

This may seem like enough to do for now, but there are even more projects in the works. You can keep checking back here for the latest news, but if you want to make sure to hear about exhibits, receptions (who doesn't want a little wine and cheese now and then?) and other events, sign up for my new email newsletter!

Click here to visit my website and sign up!

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PS. Also, brand new this year is the Facebook "like" button below. Just another way to express yourself...