When I taught at CSUMB, I would sometimes get frustrated with the commitment to lesson planning, classroom management, meetings and all the collateral work involved with doing my best for the students and the institution. That frustration was compounded by my wish to get more of my personal creative work done, work that fulfilled my soul to a much greater extent. Now that the university life is behind me, I can understand why I put off the art part, to a large extent. It can be daunting, no doubt about it. I get irritated with the networking necessities. I have a hard time with it. I'm OK with the networking part, meeting other artists and talking about work, mine and theirs. The social media part is tedious, a bit of a bore. As a university teacher, I didn't mind it much. As an artist, I find it more difficult, doing the FB, Instagram, blogging, etc., as it definitely gets in the way of my creative progress.
In the limited coaching I've had, one message comes through consistently. Be myself. Let my work be unique, unlike what's out there. In doing that, I'm having a hard time fitting into various notions of what's "artsy." Though people usually think my images are surrealist, that's not really the truth. These are literal paintings. They aren't surreal. The have a specific and coherent meaning. These are the visual complement to my poems and the poems are the magical word streams that conjure forth these images. The problem, for me, comes in separating my poems from my images and I've been struggling with the insistent notion to pull them apart and I don't want to do that. In my overall dream-scheme of things, I want to do a book of illustrated poems. The books would be the take-away from an exhibit where my paintings are on the wall, in full, physical presence, and the visitor can listen to my readings of the poems on headphones as they stroll through the gallery. I want it to be a full, immersive experience in the poetic realm that my consciousness inhabits.
I took a look at the work accepted for the Artcore show and it's so different from what I’m doing and where I’m trying to go. From that, I ask myself, "Would I dramatically shift my conceptual vision to accommodate a shift in vision?" That's really a tough one. It brings to mind all the crazy sh*t that Sherry Levine and Chris Burden had to do to break into acceptance within the Big Deal Art World. I get it and I don't blame them. To be an “Artist,” I can visualize going through the labyrinth to gain recognition. I think I have enough talent to do that. If I did, I'd forever be peeved that I didn't stick to my guns and I guess I want to change the rules, rather than conform to them. When I taught at the university, I taught graphic design during a revolutionary time, when radical new ideas were coming from skate, punk and alternative culture, upsetting the conventional modernist approaches to visual messaging. When talking about that, I reminded the students that you can either try to be the best within the conventional rules of the game or you can push so hard with new ideas that you eventually reshape those rules.
The world of gallery art might be going through radical changes. Obviously, something's shifting, though I'm not sure I fully understand where things are headed. I'm fortunate that I'm not trying to make a house payment based on the sale of my work. Though my pension is modest, I do have the means to exist independently of commercial sales, though selling what I'm working on is certainly an appealing idea. So, when I try to embrace all of this, all the variables of authenticity, acceptance, success, individuality, iconoclasm, expectations, commerce and everything in between, my brain gets bulgy and I just decide to work on what I'm working on and see where I end up.