Art & Development, Art Worlds

Casey Jex Smith’s life timeline

Utah-based artist Casey Jex Smith shared a life timeline showing his time to make art compared to career and family benchmarks, student loan debt, and gallery representation.

Multiple timelines showing birth 1976 and other benchmarks, time to make art, student loan debt, gallery representation

Timeline by artist Casey Jex Smith, courtesy of the artist

He contextualized it with:

Really satisfying to create. Just trying to communicate the trade offs in life when trying to be an artist. Artists need more data points to make their decisions —more transparency and honesty from institutions they trust.

I’m always for artists having more information, being more transparent, and self-aware of their conditions in a way that is informative. This is a great visualization and generous gesture of transparency.

What I noticed about Casey’s data visualization:

  • The sharp drops in time available for art after each child was born, and the cumulative effects of reducing his time.
    • Actually, I’m impressed he’s still able to find 10 hours per week for art.
  • The staggering amount of student debt from the MFA from SFAI. How loan interest grew or stabilized the debt amount while teaching, and a reduction in the balance starts only after working at a tech company.
    • Some friends are involved in organizing adjunct instructors for fair pay at art schools—this really puts teachers’ sacrifices in perspective.
  • In the underwear-shaped part of the timeline (ha!), he had up to four galleries representing him. Each relationship lasted during a limited, post-grad-school period—the total interval almost equal to the time passed since then.
    • When I went to grad school, there was a sense that having a gallery represent you was like being “saved”—you’d be set up, and your precariousness would become limited. But that seems like setting yourself up for disappointment. Some galleries close, some relationships don’t work out. Artists are responsible for sustaining our own lifelong practices.

This is a really interesting exercise, and I hope it inspires other artists to make their own visualizations. They could be following Casey’s example, or about other aspects of their life as an artist.

For more inspiration, see the zine I made in 2015 based on an Artist’s Personal Impacts Survey I conducted.

Learn more about Casey’s work at caseyjexsmith.com. Thanks, Casey, for sharing your timeline with me and other artists!

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