Sunday, February 20, 2011

How do you define success?

My show "All is Vanity"at Loop Gallery has come down and the month long roller coaster ride is coming to an end.

Opening reception All is Vanity 2011

People have asked "was the show a success?" and I don't know how to answer that.  Is success measured in sales? accolades? media coverage?  I sat down and wrote out my wildest art show fantasies:

1. The director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Matthew Teitelbaum, would come to the opening.
2. My work would attract the attention of the critics and be published in the national newspaper declaring my work "Best of".
3. I would have a tv interview.
4. At least one piece of my work would be purchased by a corporate collection.
5. The show would sell out.

Opening reception All is Vanity, 2011

While it seems to be a list of impossibilities, all of these things have actually happened to me at one point or another during my art career. And while I recognize the improbability of such events recurring, how do I then define whether or not the show was a success?

Oscar Wilde once said "When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money." But, defining one's success as an artist in terms of money is a losing proposition, especially during a recession.  And so this week, I reread the book Art Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. While the authors offer no easy answers, they do point out "that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts - namely, whether or not you're making progress in your work. They're in a good position to comment on how they've moved (or challenged or entertained) by the finished product, but have little knowledge or interest in your process. Audience comes later. The only pure communication is between you and your work." (pg 47)

Having a gallery show is akin to standing naked in a room of strangers, friends and family. I survived that, did the Artsync tv interview, was asked to speak at the American Costume Society conference about art and fashion, and I made progress in my work by producing hauntingly beautiful images that conveyed a narrative. What comes next, I'm not really sure. But there are times that I don't care what the definition of success is and just want to be a ski bunny.

Snowmass Mountain 2011