Recently I had a conversation with a gallery owner about a program designed to support emerging artists – work with professionals, build a body of work, have a show at the end of the seminar. I asked, what about the re-emerging artist? The gallerist had no answer.
What is the re-emerging artist? And if I am re-emerging, how does this affect how I present myself and my work?
I’ve been making art forever. I earned degrees in art making in two different decades, neither one the current. After my MFA my art was in shows and galleries, I worked with and tried developing relationships with a couple of galleries, earned an artist grant, and taught art in a variety of settings. Then things stalled, I wasn’t sure of my work, what I was doing and why. And I wasn’t really clear on how to find my way forward. I took a break, dabbling, playing with ideas with no real pressure or attachment to what I was making.
After a while I began work on a graphic novel, and started it again as I learned how to tell a longer story with images. I have really liked working on Luggage (my graphic novel), I’ve worked on it forever, taking breaks now and then, finding my way back, learning a lot along the way. Turns out working on a solo project with no audience is pretty isolating. (If you work on a project and no one sees it, does it exist as an artwork? For musing on another day.) Eventually, the book was (mostly) finished. Submitting to publishers, learning about self-publishing and a pandemic followed.
And then a transition. I continued exploring technique around ink figurative drawing. I received a beautiful a set of Kuretake watercolors (Japanese watercolor that uses glues, sugar, even fish scales as a binder, making it a little thicker than gum arabic based paints). I started playing around with lines of color with the inked figures. A series developed, feedback was positive so I applied to open calls (for art exhibits), had work selected and was approached to have a show at a local gallery. Yay me and thank you!
And while the book is still a project this recent series, and events as a result, has me in an interesting place. What is it to be an artist seeking to show her art work after many years of not? Am I a mid-career artist? Am I am emerging artist? What of the huge gaps in my CV? Social media? The last time I had a piece in an exhibit, some kid named Mark was trying to figure out how to steal a college project from his partner.
In the meantime, I’ve been putting work online and seen my audience grow. I’ve joined Artist Alliance, an online community and am learning to navigate long distance virtual relationships with other artists. I’ve submitted work through an online portal and had work accepted into group shows. It feels like a much different world from the days we found calls to art shows in the back pages of Artweek magazine.
What I’ve got is experience, both life and art making. I know what I like (the making), I know a little about showing my work and what it feels like to sell work. It is a little weird calling myself an emerging artist, knowing what I know, and at the same time learning how much I don’t know. There is a wealth of information about how to sell work, market your work, share you work. Every time I follow one link, it leads to more and more ways the internet can improve my career. It can all feel a little overwhelming. I am thankful for the upcoming show to focus on and propel me forward. What next? I’m sort of getting a reset, or restart. I guess I see myself more as a mid-career artist with new work to contribute to the conversation. The next step is figuring out where this all goes. In the meantime, if it feels good, I’ll keep doing it.