“Being with a gallery is kind of like a marriage, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leap into another marriage straight away,” she says. “At the same time, it’s a lot of work to represent yourself and I certainly don’t want to get into selling from my studio.” – Cecily Brown
I have been fixated on the work of Cecily Brown since I saw her work in 2006. The work was enormous, bold, and the color combinations were so bold and fucking smart to me. Each canvas was a landscape of sexual bliss layed out in oil paint full of thick, hot actions. The subject matter was passion, sex, and color and I, like many of her fans, was hooked.
I loosely have followed her work, going back to look at it when I need to reignite my sense of loving the painted medium. Our works are very different, but I don’t believe our love/torture for art and painting is too unlike one another. It’s the way she can transcribe the passions, the anxieties, the tensions, the construction of a composition and keeps the eye dancing that I love most and desire to one day understand through my own work.
Today, I was reading an article talking a little about Brown’s departure from the Gagosian Gallery and got caught up on these words from the artist’s interview.
“At the same time, it’s a lot of work to represent yourself and I certainly don’t want to get into selling from my studio.”
I got stuck on that phrase and wondering, what does she mean? I sell work from my studio. I and in the business of learning how to represent myself. Reflecting on my brief career working as a studio painter full-time these last 3 years, these words seem to affirm my sense that I often feel paralyzed in the business of making work and representing it myself.
Do people get these training even in graduate school? I have no graduate school education, and barely studied painting in my undergrad career at Smith College because there was a general sense from the professors that one couldn’t make it as a painter, and that painting was a dying art. So I studied video and charcoal drawing animation.
It took me years to realize that I knew painting wasn’t dying because it made me feel so damn alive. Painting teaches me how to reinvestigate the world and it’s visual symbols and natural beauties. But I think the spot where I am possibly getting myself into a world of trouble with my career is representing myself in my art. And at the same time that I have those fears of being the fish against the current, I am also stubborn to going with the flow. I fear that this tension is only assisting me in having a hard time figuring out how to pay the bills, negotiate life on life’s terms, be a social being, and make the work that I need to make. The work that is technically dynamic, addresses the world and what I love about it, and help sustain a healthy, full life-time.
Lately, I’ve been stepping back to reexamine my artwork and the conversation it has with the world of seeing and the other world of being seen. I get afraid. I feel the smallness of my self and more aware of my place in the grand scheme of things (somewhere to the bottom left), but I have an intense desire that fuels me through the night to dawns peaking. I want to figure out how to make this creative business work. I want to make light-hearted colorful work that is still genuine to the human condition of living in a world that actually carries a lot of pain and inequality. And now I wonder, have I done myself a disservice by going this alone and trying to just represent my work by myself?
I fear perhaps that is a yes, with the understanding that if I hadn’t taken those steps myself, I would not get to be where I am today, which is in my studio and painting. So I’m starting to become more introverted, saving my money to start hiring people who want to help artist succeed, and putting a lot of work up front for other galleries in hopes that I can learn how to be a team player.
Still, producing work without knowing if it will sell has started to put me at a deficit, and I wonder, is it really better to be represented by others, or is there some way that we artist can and should learn how to represent ourselves. How do we make this work sell still honoring our galleries but making sure that we can get into the studio and pay our bills on time? The only answer I can come up with is that I better study and practice hard to be the best painter and person I can be. These days it has been quietly roaming the foot paths of Ashfield, MA and studying the colors of light amongst the tree tops.