A Tale of Fifty Five Artists

TwoBirds, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Yesterday, I was speaking with a friend about the state of the economy and the art world. This down economy can actually be helpful to some artists. For those willing to stay the course, stick to their guns, this is an opportunity of sorts. “In good times,” I said, “it’s hard, sometimes impossible to get into galleries or shows.” It’s true. The same galleries that will look at your work now won’t give you the time of day in a booming economy. And, I can vividly recall a period of time when everybody was out on the Internets complaining of how they could not get into shows. It’s a time in the not-to-distant past, and I remember it oh so well (unfortunately.) Also, in these down times, with the stock market being so wild, many people opt to invest in artwork. It’s something a bit more tangible than a stock certificate and it’s something that will hold its value over time. There are only so many Monets, Van Goghs, etc. in the world. Likewise, even contemporary artwork provides a lot of “bang for the buck” here because it tends to appreciate a lot quicker than some of the work from established artists. A Monet is already worth it’s asking price of, say 14 million dollars, but the guy (or gal) who invests in a $2500 painting today only to find out that, in ten years, yeah it’s work $80,000? That’s somebody who has made money in the art world. This also has the little added “bonus” that you get to keep the artwork all of that time. You get to hang something in your house and rub it in the noses of all of your friends. Imagine how that goes. “Oh yes,” you can casually say, “this is my [John Smith] original!” Won’t you look like the smart investor (and art collector) in front of all your friends at dinner parties and such.

While this may be true, I had another surprise yesterday. As you know, it seems I have had some work accepted into the local holiday show at the Austin Visual Arts Association gallery space over at Austin Art Space. Now, I’ve told you this news already (the reception is on Thursday for those in the know) so I won’t go into details about that again but there is something about this show that comes as a bit of a shock to me.

The shock, as it were, is that there are over fifty, I think over fifty five artists accepted into this show. Fifty five artists? In one show? In a down economy? And that’s not counting the ones who did not make it into the show. (Imagine the rejection pile is even bigger.) Seriously, fifty five artists is more than half as large as the East Austin Studio Tour. That’s massive! That’s a lot of artists. In a down economy, I can hardly believe that there are fifty five artists doing a small holiday show and sale down at my local art studio and gallery. I mean, this is not MOMA or the Guggenheim, we’re talking Austin Art Space here. Yeowza! That’s a lot of artists.

And therein lies the surprise.

I’m shocked that we have so many artists, so many working professional artists in Austin. Shocked really doesn’t begin to cover it actually. It’s astounding how many artists there are out there.

This got me to thinking. How does one stand apart from that pack? How does one go about “making it” when there are so many, oh so many, lined up, waiting patiently in line alongside, waiting to “make it” as well? It boggles the mind really, even thinking about that.

It’s something I hadn’t given much through before really. I mean, Austin has always been a smaller-ish town, even if we sometimes have events like EAST, many of the artists tend to know each other. We hang out in these little “hovels” like AVAA where you can safely do things like life drawing or confess that you really enjoy the smell of darkroom developer in the morning, and nobody thinks any worse of you for it. We go to the DAC, we visit Congress Avenue, we tend to stay in our “neat” little artist “boxes” which tuck nicely into the fabric of our quaint little city. Everything’s so neat and tidy, you could almost wrap it up in a holiday bow, yes, that’s how the Austin art scene actually is.

With so many artists out in the great blue yonder, it’s hard to stand apart, and this has given me a bit of a pause today. It drives home that point they always make about “branding” and “professionalism” and all of that. In order to make it, you need not only leg work, not only a “product” you can believe in, but you need to stand out, break away from all of the others in your field. Originality, it would appear, gets rewarded.

That’s my thought for the day today. This is certainly a topic I will re-visit again at another time, perhaps after I’ve given it a bit more thought, but I wanted to share this with you today too, in order to get you thinking about it as well. And I’d certainly be up for some pointers. How do you stand out? How do you break away from the pack? Have you noticed your “pack” growing larger and larger in recent times or is it just me? Perhaps Austin is a growing city and that’s part of what I’m seeing actually happen here? Maybe I’ve just not noticed it before? It’s surprising for me to say the least.

Jack Kerouac once said, ““I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

Today anyway, I’m starting to think he was right about that.

Until next time…

1 Comment

  1. Great Grandma Lin
    November 29, 2011 / 2:50 pm

    thoughtful post as usual. Well, there are many writers and would be authors. I have written 4 books now and starting on my 5th book-a poetry collection. I don't write to be sold but to express myself. Good thing, I couldn't survive on my income…but my hubby has a good retirement and I can write all day if I want to. Just got some poem accepted in a statewide poetry publication-no money but recognition. I love teaching and helping others be creative. I love your bird photo-it captures flight so well.

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