Episode 299 – New Markets for Artists / Write with Intrigue and Mystery

Write with Intrigue and Mystery

Here is a statement by artist Joseph Beuys:

Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today. They were the nomads of the Crimea, in what was then no man’s land between the Russian and German fronts, and favored neither side. I had already struck up a good relationship with them, and often wandered off to sit with them. ‘Du nix njemcky’ they would say, ‘du Tartar,’ and try to persuade me to join their clan. Their nomadic ways attracted me of course, although by that time their movements had been restricted.  Yet it was they who discovered me in the snow after the crash, when the German search parties had given up. I was still unconscious then and only came round completely after twelve days or so, and by then I was back in a German field hospital. So the memories I have of that time are images that penetrated my consciousness. The last thing I remember was that it was too late to jump, too late for the parachutes to open. That must have been a couple of seconds before hitting the ground.  Luckily,  I was not strapped in – I always preferred free movement to safety belts . . . My friend was strapped in and he was atomized on impact—there was almost nothing to be found of him afterwards. But I must have shot through the wind- screen as it flew back at the same speed as the plane hit the ground, and that saved me, though I had bad skull and jaw injuries. Then the tail flipped over and I was completely buried in the snow. That’s how the Tartars found me days later. I remember voices saying ‘Voda’ (Water), then the felt of their tents, and the dense pungent smell of cheese, fat and milk. They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in.

—Joseph Beuys

Why Is That a Good Statement?

The first sentence is about life and death. When I read the statement aloud during lectures, there are usually audible gasps when I read the part about the copilot being atomized on impact. Current research says that the copilot actually lived, and there were no Tartars in the region at that time, but in a dramatic piece of writing like this, no one is interested in the truth, they want to be entertained. Notice also, how the artist doesn’t describe the art itself. The story stands on its own as a memorable narrative about a transformative experience.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 298 – New Markets for Artists / Write with Humor

Write with Humor

There is another artist whose statement I read recently, a Brooklynite named William Powhida. His work is often very political and narrative, and he pokes fun at the art world by pointing out hypocrisy and art scandals similar to insider trading. He is an artist and art critic at the same time. He recently had a print for sale on the website 20×200, a place where artists can sell prints. When artists submit their work, it must be accompanied by a short statement as well. The print he was selling had the word “fuck” written in different styles and colors all over it, maybe 200 times. His artist statement read: “It would make a good shower curtain too.” His sense of humor, like Marlene Dumas’, is refreshing.

Reading Is Different Now

We are living in an age where people scan the Internet. Unlike traditional reading, people tend to scan Internet pages quick- ly, looking for pertinent information and facts, and then move on. Your online artist statement has to be either very brief and memorable, or an extremely compelling story (whether it is fact or fiction does not matter). But like a good article or novel, the first sentence should pull the reader in.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 297 – New Markets for Artists / Write Less, Write Sincerely

Write Less, Write Sincerely

Many artists think their statement has to be a manifesto of some kind, or a grand declaration about their work, but that is not the case. One of the best-selling artists in the world is Marlene Dumas, a contemporary painter whose work is mostly figurative. Much has been written about her work and what it means. Her well-known artist’s statement is very simple: “I paint because I am a dirty woman.” It is a wonderful statement because she is showing a sense of humor and also being slightly erotic. If you saw her images and liked them, you might read her statement and smile a bit, but it would probably not turn you off. If I were evaluating her work and read that statement, I would think she has a sense of humor and might be fun to talk with. The work itself shows how serious she is, and the statement shows her wit and hints at her personality without feeling arrogant or pretentious. However, her statement is actually much longer, closer to a poem and that was just one line in one of the most powerful statements I have ever read. The statement in its entirety is below.

Woman and painting

By Marlene Dumas, painter

I paint because I am a woman. (It’s a logical necessity.)

If painting is female and insanity is a female malady, then all women painters are mad and all male painters are women.

I paint because I am an artificial blonde woman. (Brunettes have no excuse.)

If all good painting is about color then bad painting is about having the wrong color. But bad things can be good excuses. As Sharon Stone said,  “Being blonde is a great excuse. When you’re having a bad day you can say, I can’t help it, I’m just feeling very blonde today.”

I paint because I am a country girl. (Clever, talented big-city girls don’t paint.)

I grew up on a wine farm in Southern Africa. When I was a child I drew bikini girls for male guests on the back of their cigarette packs. Now I am a mother and I live in another place that reminds me a lot of a farm – Amsterdam. (It’s a good place for painters.) Come to think about it, I’m still busy with those types of images and imagination.

I paint because I am a religious woman. (I believe in eternity.)

Painting doesn’t freeze time. It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last. Painting is a very slow art. It doesn’t travel with the speed of light. That’s why dead painters shine so bright. It’s okay to be the second sex. It’s okay to be second best. Painting is not a progressive activity.

I paint because I am an old-fashioned woman. (I believe in witchcraft.)

I don’t have Freudian hang-ups. A brush does not remind me of a phallic symbol. If anything, the domestic aspect of a painter’s studio (being “locked up” in a room) reminds me a bit of the housewife with her broom. If you’re a witch you will still know how to use it. Otherwise it is obvious that you’ll prefer the vacuum cleaner.

I paint because I am a dirty woman. (Painting is a messy business.)

It cannot ever be a pure conceptual medium. The more “conceptual” or cleaner the art, the more the head can be separated from the body, and the more the labor can be done by others. Painting is the only manual labor I do.

I paint because I like to be bought and sold. Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard. The content of a painting cannot be separated from the feel of its surface. Therefore, in spite of every- thing, Cézanne is more than vegetation and Picasso is more than an anus and Matisse is not a pimp.

—Marlene Dumas 1993

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 296 – New Markets for Artists / The Artist Statement

Chapter 13

The Artist Statement

It is necessary for you to have a biography and personal statement for your applications, but there are ways around the form’s rigid structures so you can write something truer to your own voice that is easier to understand.

Artist Statements

Artist statements are perhaps the biggest stumbling block, and one of the most misunderstood pieces of writing. I owned a gallery for several years and received a lot of letters from artists with images and artist statements. I am, and presumably, so are most people in this business, a visual person, and when I got materials that looked good to me—in other words, that the images were compelling somehow—I was excited. However, many artists lost my interest with poorly written artist statements. When I see art, I know if I am attracted to it or not. I may not know why, but like anyone, I can point and say, “I like that one the best.” It is hard for people to put into words. The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think it is probably more than that. There are so many responses we have to an image on a conscious and unconscious level that it can be almost impossible to understand all the reasons we are attracted to it. So when an artist’s statement tries to explain an image, it can be like artlessly explaining a poem, which removes all its beauty.

Bad Statements Can Be an Artist’s Undoing

When I was a gallery director, I noticed that many times after reading an artist’s statement, the work that I was initially attracted to was no longer appealing. I remember one statement from an abstract painter who described his work as “lyrical abstract surrealism.” It was an awkward phrase, and the statement about how he was creating a new genre was even worse. He would have been better off saying nothing. Although I liked the work, I decided not to show it or continue the correspondence because I didn’t think I would enjoy talking to this artist whose statement was pretentious and unnecessary.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 295 – New Markets for Artists / Contacting the Museum

Contacting the Museum

Who do you send your proposal to? Normally, you would send it to the Program Director, who should be listed on the museum’s website. When I am having trouble finding the right person, I call the museum and ask the general information desk who is in charge of educational programs. They can give you the number you need and sometimes transfer you directly, so be prepared to talk about your idea when you make the call. All you have to say is that you want to submit a proposal for an educational workshop, and who should you send it to. Once you get the right contact information send your proposal as an email, and follow up every few days with calls and emails until you get a response.

Why This Works

You might still think this strategy is hard or competitive, but it is not. Also, once you are running workshops and getting paid—yes, the museum will pay you—then you can ask to meet the museum’s curators who work with living artists.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York

To close this chapter, I will tell you about a time when I was invited to the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the director of educational programming gave me a tour of their facilities. I had called and asked to see the spaces they had available for workshops and educational programs and the director took me around to the beautiful spaces inside the museum, and explained what each room was used for. One room, which looked like a large conference room, had about thirty equipped computer stations.

Unused Resources

The director told me that IBM gave the museum these computers and funded the room, but that no one ever used it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Guggenheim Museum had a whole room of computers that could be used for educational purposes, and they just sat there collecting dust! The director explained that no one had any idea how to incorporate the computers in helping people understand their exhibits. He laughed and said, “That’s how things are!”

Opportunities  Abound

If that can happen in New York City, there must be numerous openings for educators across the nation. You are an artist, a visionary, and an educator. You don’t need a degree or past experience to do this; you just need an idea and the will to see it through to fruition.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 294 – New Markets for Artists / Research, Then Write

Research, Then Write

When you are going to write a proposal for an educational program, the museum’s website is the best way to research what the museum might be looking for. Let’s say there’s a local museum that you want to approach. After looking over their currently offered educational programs, think of one you could do. To jumpstart your process, also look at the museum’s upcoming exhibitions. Most educational programs are related to the current exhibits, but you need to know what the museum is planning in a year or six months so you can see if you can do something appropriate then.

The Current Exhibit

If the museum you are looking at has a Picasso exhibit coming up in four months, you might want to think of a program that will help people to understand Picasso. An example could be an adult workshop taking digital self-portrait photographs, ripping them up, and then gluing them together, similar to Picasso’s paintings. The goal would be to teach how Picasso worked with angles and different perspectives to add complexity to his work. With a hands-on workshop like this, all ages can learn something about an artists’ process.

A Related Workshop

An idea like that would certainly be considered, but there are tons of other ideas you could come up with. Think about age groups, and remember to make your idea fun. Could you adapt the workshop I just mentioned for small children and senior citizens who may not be able to use a computer? Perhaps Polaroid’s could be taken, or digital self portraits could be printed out, ripped up by hand and glued back together.

Tours

If you are interested in giving tours, you could propose doing one, or a series of tours with a new twist to make it fresh and interesting. You could talk as an artist, or perhaps impersonate Picasso or an important person from his life, and give the tour in character. Once you have an idea, write it out in a short, clear draft. The best way to learn the proper form and length is to go to the museum website again and read over the program descriptions. Copy this form exactly. Make it sound like your program is already done and ready to put into operation by including the program’s age range and sign-up information. That makes it much easier for the museum to imagine your program in their facility.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 293 – New Markets for Artists / Adult Education

Adult Education

Entertainment is also a goal for adult education. Educational departments try to offer programs and create learning-friendly atmospheres where adults and kids alike can come to understand and explore artwork. I was recently reading about a museum that created a lecture series based on things that didn’t go together. An example would be a lecture on the philosopher Nietzsche and pictures of Puppies which the museum had and was very popular! Both entertaining and educational.

Your Career in Education and Also Curatorial Departments

The educational department is very important to your career, because it is the easiest way into a museum. Besides getting paid, you can meet the right people in the curatorial department for a possible show. To begin, what you’ll want to do is to propose a workshop or tour of the museum (if you look at the museum’s website you will see what kinds of things they are doing already).

Propose an Educational Workshop

Generally, I have found that museums have boring educational programs, and that is because not enough artists submit proposals. The people submitting proposals are often educators who have very traditional experience with audiences. As an artist, you can probably do better. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had a popular program where artists gave tours of the museum, pointing out and talking about their favorite pieces. This got a lot of press and became a big success because artists talk about art in a very different way than educators with no special art knowledge. Artists have informed opinions, strong likes and dislikes, and can be quirky and engaging in their presentation. The public enjoys this much more than most docents, who drone on monotonously during their tours.

Submitting a Proposal to a Museum

Let’s move on to how you will submit your idea to the educational department. Keep in mind that you are doing this to get into the museum, get paid, and have an inside connection to the curatorial department. The best place to start is the muse- um website, where you will find a listing of their current educational programs. Look them over, notice how they are written, and decide which ones appeal to you and which ones do not.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 292 – New Markets for Artists / Education versus Curatorial at Museums

Education versus Curatorial at Museums

Curatorial and education are the two main departments in museums. The curatorial department is in charge of what exhibits are produced and what catalogs are published about those exhibits. Even in the most contemporary museums like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, most of the curatorial staff is involved with research.

Curatorial Department

Museums mainly seek famous and deceased artists whose work fits into the museum’s particular educational category. For example, if you are a curator in a modern museum of contemporary art, one of your projects might be to look at drawings from the past fifty years and compare them to show how style and technique has changed over time in a particular field. Looking at drawings from the past that were used as journalistic tools, would be an example that could be compared to the present.

Research Is Mostly What a Curator Does

A curator may look at paintings from a particular decade and compare them with political events at the time to find relationships between art and politics. I’m explaining what curators do, very briefly, so that you understand that these are not people who can easily help you exhibit your art—their work is entirely separate and may have little to no influence in those matters.

Any Museum Relationship Can Get You Far

However, any connection at a museum can be helpful. I will explain how in just a moment. The other department at museums is the educational department, whose sole purpose is educating the public through programs rather than exhibits.

 

Educational Department

The easiest way to understand about educational programs  is to go to a museum website, preferably for a museum near you, and look at what they have to offer. There will be upcoming exhibits, of course, but there will also be educational programs for the public. Many of these programs are designed to appeal to specific age groups. They might also have tours for adults at different times that are focused on the current exhibits.

Workshops

They will also have workshops for young children, teenagers, college students, and adults. There are several different kinds of workshops. Some of them involve participants making something with their own hands, some are lectures, and still others involve playing games that help demonstrate how particular exhibits work. It is also popular now to have drawing packets that teach children to use their imaginations in new ways.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 291 – New Markets for Artists / Museums

Museums

Museums are a different ball of wax altogether. They are not in the business of making sales and are not concerned with selling their collections in most cases. In fact, talking about sales with a museum would generally be a mistake for several reasons, unless you’re talking about their gift shop. Museums know that exhibits increase the value of living artists, and they are careful to avoid involvement in commercial deals for ethical reasons.

Galleries Want Museums

You see, many galleries don’t understand how museums work, and for this reason have difficulty getting museums to take their artists’ work. It is a mistake to approach museums like you would other for-profit businesses because museums do not run on art sales and are unlikely to be interested in the gallery’s proposals.

Museums Do Not Want Galleries, They Want Art

Museums are not easily seduced, and indeed, tend to be put off by dealers who try to woo them into looking at an artist’s work. All the museum wants to know from the dealer is why the artist is interesting, and what, if anything, can the artist’s work teach the public. Museums, not unlike universities, are essentially educational institutions, and they make money by charging admission and having fund raisers.  The staff of a museum is largely made up of academics who have at least a graduate degree.

Approaching  Museums

When I advise galleries on how to approach museums, I tell them to focus on an artist’s educational value. The gallery must consider how their artists teach or help their viewers understand something in a new and different way. How is the artist building on the history of previous artists? Artists, too, must understand the importance of their work’s educational value, because if they approach a museum with a proposal of some kind, they must be able to convince the museum that their work is of value extrinsically, in the form of workshops, lectures, and other possible forms that would benefit the public.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share

Episode 290 – New Markets for Artists / Effective Openings

Effective Openings

The reason this event was so successful was because it had something for everyone, from kids to adults, and the show was fairly easy to understand. Plus there was free food and music. Another reason this show was packed was because so many people were involved. In addition to the event organizers, there were poets, writers and musicians, and they all invited their friends to the show as well. That is why group shows usually draw large crowds. When you propose your work to a gallery, you might also think about including other artists as well.

Collaborative Exhibits and Proposals

Artist-curated shows are more popular now, and it is OK to include your own work if you are up front about the show being curated by an artist. Also, the show could have a theme that supports your work. For example, let’s say you paint flowers. It would be helpful to recruit other artists who paint flowers. You could also ask a local florist to donate flower arrangements and demonstrate for your guests how to arrange them. Try to be creative and come up with other flower-related events. If your paintings are abstract, bring in other abstract painters and sculptors and stay away from anything figurative. Again, you could also have activities like readings and music, but what about staging a reenactment of a Jackson Pollock painting? It is important to have fun with these things. Galleries will then find your ideas interesting. You are not saying, “Do you like my work?” You are creating a rich experience that will help draw crowds, press, and most importantly, sales.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Share