Now that I’m back in the studio, I’ve been revisiting a question I think about from time to time. As a working artist, what’s the right balance of time spent working on pieces that are a “sure bet” for sale versus those that take more risks and potentially offer more reward? (And no lectures on considering whether work will sell as a cop-out. You need a trust fund or a really good day job to be a purist.)
When I spent time in Montana, my painter friend Michael Haykin talked about the idea of the “beautiful rut” that many Montana artists seemed to get stuck in. Artists hit something good, it sells, they don’t move on. I think there’s a fair bit of that going on in Alaska, too. I’ve always kept his comment in the back of my mind and think about it when I feel my wheels traveling a worn track.
But people often want what they’ve seen before. Galleries like a certain degree of predictability. Artists want to be wanted.
On the other hand, the riskier pieces bring other rewards. Grant-makers and exhibition juries often gravitate to the pieces that are less easy. Maybe it’s about splitting the working time and keeping some work back, or having two related but distinct bodies of work for the two different purposes. Luckily sometimes both things can happen in the same piece.
On a different subject, here’s a gallery shot of my panel from the “Art in the Making” exhibit at the UAF Museum of the North, and links to some of the interview materials. There’s another really nice video piece that tracks the print “Nest” from start to finish, but I think you have to go to the show to see that one. They did a great job (though there’s nothing that can be done about the cringing that goes with hearing your own voice.)
And here are the you-tube videos. Don’t laugh too hard.