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!

Standard
Art Worlds, Citizenship

It’s not often that major media covers an artist-in-residence program, or the social impact of the resulting public artworks.

This is an interesting profile of a small community in Georgia, portraits of local residents by artist-in-residence Mary Beth Meehan, and the conversations about belonging and controversies around Islamophobia that they sparked.

Read “How 17 Outsize Portraits Rattled a Small Southern Town” by Audra D. S. Burch, NY Times, January 19, 2020.

 


 

If you’re interested, learn more about the Newnan residency program. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Link
A empty white walled room with a bright window in the back corner. Two tables and two office chairs. light brown carpet.
Art & Development, Research

LMCC Workspace Residency: Update #1: What, Who, Where, When, How, Why, and What I’ve Been Up To

About the first third of a nine-month residency.

In October, I started the 2019-2020 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace Artist-in-Residence program. It’s a huge honor. I first applied like 10 years ago. The application pool is quite competitive. I’m very humbled and grateful that it’s working out this year.

What

This year’s Workspace residents receive:

  • A semi-private studio space.
  • Weekly salon evenings consisting of studio visits with curators and arts professionals, studio visits with the cohort, professional development workshops, cohort-led activities, and more.
  • An open studio in June 2020.
  • A materials stipend of $1,300.

This is pretty typical of the program, with some variation in the fee depending on funding, and slight differences in timeline and studio space, depending on the space available.

A empty white walled room with a bright window in the back corner. Two tables and two office chairs. light brown carpet.

My studio, before move-in.

Who

This year’s cohort consists of 10 visual artists (learn more on lmcc.net). (The number of residents depends on the space available. LMCC residency programs are usually open to dance, theater, and literary arts, too; check for next year’s application in mid-January 2020.) An on-site assistant, who was a Workspace resident last year, also has a studio.

I really like the cohort! It’s an interesting group of artists working in sculpture, installation, performance, works on paper, and textiles. My cohorts are clearly invested in their practices and in building a respectful, serious, and friendly community.

The program is managed by Bora Kim. Other LMCC staff and interns help out with the program as well as marketing and events.

Where

Building & Location

The studio is located in a corporate building near Wall Street. The building itself is quite impressive. The guards and maintenance team are friendly and helpful. It’s secure and clean.

An ornate, gold, orange and red interior. Lots of embellishment on every surface. The ceiling has built-in light figures that make geometric rays of light due to the bas relief in the ceiling. The walls have a matching louvered paneling in gold. There are multiple spaces defined by transoms with ornate floral grillwork. The floors have a checkerboard of yellow and cream marble with black and white marble interspersed and used as a border. There are touches of gleaming metal.

The gorgeous Art Deco lobby at 70 Pine. View towards the mailroom and elevators.

LMCC encourages residents to learn more about lower Manhattan. One salon evenings was a walking tour led by a member of the city’s landmarks commission. I especially loved visiting 70 Pine, a stellar example of Art Deco. (As a landmarked building, there is a public mandate to make the lobby accessible to the public. Anyone can visit. Don’t miss the bas-relief on the elevator doors.) I’ve also been going on walks, exploring Oculus, the 9/11 Memorial, and longtime neighborhood businesses.

The transportation options are ridiculously convenient: the N/W, 1, and 4/5 subway stations are all very close. I’ve also taken the ferry, rode Citibike, and walked to the studio from Queens.

The Studio

The cohort shares a large carpeted office space, which is divided into studios with tension-pole partitions sheathed with Homasote.

My studio is about 16′ long by 8′ wide. It’s sunny, with a large window facing east. LMCC provided two work tables and two office chairs.

a office with carpet and two folding tables side by side, with an office chair. there's a small ironing board with a bandana on top, and an iron. There are drawings on the wall, and various clipboards, pencils, colored pencils, etc on the table.

A view of my studio, recently.

Two residents have enclosed offices with glass doors. In a large open space in the center, we’ve put a table and chairs to gather for meals. There’s also smaller lounge areas and a conference room. There’s a kitchen with a fridge, electric kettle, microwave, dishes, silverware, and sink (there is no separate work sink). There is a computer and scanner/printer available (it’s been useful for me lately for making copies of drawings to do quick color studies). Residents occasionally work in common spaces when they need to spread out. It feels like there’s plenty of space.

Carpeted office space divided into artist studios with office chairs around a table in the middle. Various art studio supplies: shop vacuum, bin of fabrics, dolly, etc around.

LMCC Workspace studios, one wintry day.

Having an art studio in a corporate building entails a little extra coordination when moving large items in or out, and using the one small, staff-operated freight elevator. LMCC has a dolly we can borrow, which helps.

When

Our first day was October 7. We received immediately received IDs, access codes, and permission to move in. (I love it when there’s no delay!) The program ends after the open studios at the end of June 2020.

Residents have 24/7 access to space.

Salon evenings are held weekly, except on holidays. I’m happy to be there each week, especially because a former resident told me about how much he looked forward to them. There’s a great variety of programming and cohort-building activities.

How

I really like the program for its combination of space and programmatic support. They invest in community-building. The first salon evening was speed intros, where residents got to introduce ourselves and our practices to each other via projected images of our work. Some LMCC staff attended too (which is nice considering that it’s after work for them). LMCC often supplies refreshments, which help lend conviviality.

LMCC asked us to suggest potential guests to invite for studio visits. The final line-up includes many curators from major NYC institutions. Studio visit evenings usually feature a few guests. Each guest are scheduled for four, thirty-minute, one-on-one visits with residents. Residents may have one to three visits per evening. When you aren’t paired with an outside guest, you do studio visits with other cohort members.

Early in the program, when a salon evening was canceled due to a holiday, I asked the cohort if they’d like to have a potluck anyway. We did. It was fun to get to know the other artists in a more relaxed setting. I’m really grateful everyone shares an interest in getting to know and support each other.

A computer printout pinned to a white wall. Text reads:

Skill Share Pictionary Set Up instructions

I had the opportunity to lead an activity one salon evening. I made up an activity called Skill Share Pictionary (learn more on my Glint Project Instagram takeover).

Fellow resident Naomi Safran-Hon initiated the idea of having a group exhibition in the foyer. It was pretty impressive that the cohort organized our group show in about 20 minutes. I appreciate our group’s cooperation, initiative, and flexibility.

Why

Here’s why I applied, as written my application. (My brevity is due to LMCC’s strict word count limits.)

I’ll develop new works exploring resilience, vulnerability, authenticity, and connectedness.

I’ll research and present findings via calligraphy, sign painting, and drawings. Then, I’ll create garments with pockets that reveal or secure aspects of one’s identity, and hybrid books-games-interactive objects in textiles and paper for fostering brave spaces.

WHY WORKSPACE?

I need different perspectives to ground these subjective concepts, and mutual support and rigorous feedback.

WHY NOW?

It’s time to grow my craftsmanship, my fluidity between thinking and making, and my ethics of social engagement.

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS?

To grow. To do my part to cultivate authenticity, vulnerability and connectedness.


What Have I Been Up To?

I started by trying to define what I meant by resilience, and how it is connected to authenticity and vulnerability. These latter two concepts are things I kept thinking about in my projects on belonging. Being able to express yourself authentically, and being able to be vulnerable, were often characteristic of spaces of belonging. At the same time, belonging allows you to be more vulnerable, and more authentic.

Dozens of small pieces of paper tacked to a white wall. Some of text on the paper are headers written in a black calligraphy marker, such as adversity, risk, exposure, discomfort, pain, loss, failure, fear, blame, shame, othering, disconnection, vulnerability, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, authenticity, hope. Then there are numerous small pieces of paper written in pencil but it's too small to read. Then there's yellow tape lines connecting various parts.

A mind map on resilience.

I have been working and re-working a large mind-map, trying to see these connections and fill in what else I know about related concepts about hope, growth mindset, belonging, sports psychology, shame, etc.

I’ve also been reading more mass market books by psychologists with academic affiliations or longtime clinical practices. I’m proud to say that this year I’ve been more intentional about supporting indie booksellers and libraries.

Cover of a book, with a big red heart on an ivory background. The title and author name with subtitle:

Emotional First Aid, by Guy Winch, PhD

I read Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch, a longtime NYC therapist. I loved that it explains the logical sources behind squishy feelings (violation of rights results in anger, or a fear of violating other’s rights or standards results in shame) and logical responses to those feelings (reflective writing exercises that reframe situations, or deliberate, detailed strategies to repair relationships). (I first came across this book at the San Francisco Public Library, in the Chinese section. I wish more mental health books were translated into different languages. BTW the English version is available at the Queens Public Library.)

Cover of a book with a photo of a gnarled tree atop a rock. Subtitle: Seven keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles.

The Resilience Factor, by Karen Reivich, PhD, and Andrew Shatté, PhD.

My suspicion that resilience relates to optimism was validated when I stumbled upon The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich, PhD and Andrew Shatté, PhD via the Queens Library. Reivich and Shatté were students of Martin Seligman, whose book on optimism was the first positive psychology book I ever read, way back in 2010. Reivich and Shatté build upon Seligman’s explanatory style—the idea that people explain adversities with beliefs, which shape consequences or actions, therefore different responses become possible by examining the beliefs. This book organizes a lot of mental habits and strategies that I find insightful and worthy of sharing. I’ve been working on some drawings (see a few sketches on Instagram), with my Positive Signs series as an early predecessor.

Cover of book, no images, but there are three bars of color: purple, blue, green. Mostly white background. Updated Edition. Subtitle: The new pyschology of success: How we can learn to fulfill our potential. sticker: 2 million copies in print. list: parenting, business, school, relationships. small blurb.

Mindset by Carol. S. Dweck, PhD

I’m also reading Mindset by Carol Dweck, PhD (which I got with credit from selling books at the Strand). This is book has had a huge influence on education and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. People with growth mindsets are willing to take risks in order to grow. People with fixed mindsets are afraid to be exposed as inadequate. I’m starting to see through-lines between optimism, resilience, vulnerability, and courage.

To take a break from reading, I practiced a lot of hand lettering and calligraphy using markers, dip pens, and brushes. It was  fun to dive into different letterforms (my reference book: Hand Lettering by Thy Doan, also from the Strand).

I also just got loose in my sketchbook inspired by Syllabus by Lynda Barry (Strand), which I’ve expounded upon in a previous post.

All this note-taking, lettering practice, and drawing added up into completing a 250-page sketchbook in two months—a record time for me.

Fancy handlettering on a dot grid sketchbook page in pink, blue and black marker. Text reads: Resilience is a mindset that enables you to seek out new experiences and to view life as a work in progress.

Sketch book page: lettering practice with a quote on resilience by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté.

My proposal mentioned sewing. I have some ideas about textiles and garments. I’m letting those ideas marinate as I synthesize all this information and lettering forms. My sewing machine and materials are at the studio, and I’m looking forward to diving in over the next six months.

Standard
Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: Lighthouse Works’ 2020 Spring and Summer Fellowship Program

Lighthouse Works’ fellowship program received over 500 applications for 15 fellowships awarded for the upcoming Spring and Summer.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////+

Selected artists comprise less than 1:33, or 3% of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

Standard
Art Competition Odds

Twelve Months in Art Competitions, 2018-2019

Stats on my art competition applications from July 2018 through June 2019.*

Goals

My goals this past ‘goal-year’ included applying to:

  • Ten residency, studio programs or public projects to get support in NYC
  • Six exhibitions in NYC
  • Two grants ($3k minimum)

This adds up to 18 applications, which was too many. I’d set goals totaling 18 applications in prior years, and I need to be more strategic and deliberate moving forward.

Progress

I submitted 8 applications.

Some of these applications fulfilled multiple goals. For example, some residencies included exhibitions or stipends over $3k, so I counted those towards multiple goals.

Here’s how much progress I made towards my goals:

  • I submitted 7 out of 10 applications towards residency, studio programs or public projects in NYC:
    • residencies
    • studio programs
    • public projects
    • 1 purchase program (It was located outside of NYC, but funds could support my work in NYC, so I counted it towards this goal.)
  • I submitted 3 out of 6 applications for exhibitions in NYC.
  • I submitted 2 out of 2 applications for competitions that included over $3k of financial support, which I applied towards my grants goal.

There were two primary reasons for a low rate of applications. First, I was awarded a six-month residency, and I couldn’t apply to anything else that conflicted with those dates. Second, when application deadlines overlapped with the residency period, I chose to prioritize the residency. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to submit killer proposals. I chose quality over quantity.

Successes

I have received notifications for 6 of 8 applications submitted.

Of these six applications, I received residency and 1 studio program. My success rate was 2/6, or 33%, of the 6 entries that have responded to date.

If the remaining two applications are unsuccessful, my success rate would be 2/8 or 25%.


See my stats from 2017-20182015-2016, 2014, and 2013.

Standard
Art Competition Odds

More Notes from a Juror

Over the past two weeks, I was a juror for an artist-in-residence program. I spent about 10.5 hours reviewing 30 applications. As I reviewed, I took notes on what I found myself responding positively and negatively to. These notes are summarized below. They reflect my own biases, the application’s structure, and the organization’s criteria.


The basis of good writing is clear thinking. The applications that rise to the top show deep praxis and high intelligence.

Say what, who, when, where, how, and why. Stating the parameters of your project clearly and simply helps jurors remember, sort, and rank your proposal. Timelines help convey a clear plan. Citing individuals or organizations shows that you’ve done some groundwork.

Specify outcomes when possible. At the same time, balance outcomes with open-ended-ness. Don’t be too predetermined; allow room for growth or discovery, and for dialogue and the dynamic qualities of the program to inform your work.

Use headers. They are helpful landmarks in narrative texts.

Hit the marks. If the criteria are outlined, address how your project, specifically, fulfills them. Avoid generalizations about how art fulfills the criteria (“Art is ___ because…” “Art functions in society to…” “Art has the power to…”). If your project relates to social or political contexts, summarize them. The bulk of a letter of intent should be a description of your proposed project; background info should make up a smaller proportion.

Demonstrate a track record. Your work samples should show that you have the experience and capacity to pull off your proposed project. If your proposal includes a new medium or format for you, describe how you will learn or overcome the technical challenges.

If you’re going to propose an expansion or re-staging of a current project, convince readers why it is dynamic, necessary, worthy, or new, rather than merely helpful for your career or exhibition history. Is there a strategy? Does this next phase help you reach a bigger, more ambitious goal? Do you have any concrete plans or partnerships towards that goal? Show how this specific opportunity is a good fit (as opposed to any other opportunity that provides funding or visibility). Bear in mind that other applicants will be proposing all new projects, which seem more ambitious, and conclude with a more satisfying sense of accomplishment, in comparison. If your proposal is for an interstitial phase of a longer project, the outcomes may seem modest or unexciting.

Review your submittal as a whole. The parts should interlock and strengthen each other. Accentuate strong connections (include work samples of past projects relevant to your proposal or artist’s statement). Eliminate weak connections (omit less-relevant text or art from your statement or work samples if they don’t support the proposed project). [In practice, this means drafting and editing your submittal first, rather than cutting, pasting, and writing directly in the application portal.]

Don’t be redundant. If you say something in your proposal, no need to repeat it in your artist’s statement or work samples, or vice versa.

Limit art-speak. On a mechanical level, each sentence should function to communicate an idea that is specific to your project or process. Avoid making up acronyms for elements of your art practice that you reference only once or twice.

Provide enough context for your work samples. This is especially true of performance and social practice projects.

Standard
Art Worlds, Research

Watch: On Why Art Belongs in the World

A beautiful work of storytelling and advanced learnings about sharing art.

Kristy Edmunds’ keynote speech at United States Artists Assembly 2019 is stirring, smart, and compelling. I highly recommend it. Watch the video, which includes an intro by Ann Hamilton.

Person holding a bowl in one hand, standing at a podium.

Keynote speaker Kristy Edmunds. // Source: UnitedStatesArtists.org.

Edmund’s speech comes from her perspective as curator and artistic director, facilitating relationships between artists and institutions. She’s particularly pro-artist [which is something you might assume people working in the art world would be, but actually, some are anti-artist, H/T Shannon Stratton].

Edmund’s perspective was especially interesting to me as a social practitioner, in thinking about partnerships with organizations, institutions, and communities, and also as an artist who thinks about my work less in terms of objects to be owned, and more in terms of aesthetic experiences and engagements.

Below are a few highlights.

On partnerships between artists and institutions

The quality of invitations to artists and audiences matter.

Artists are not to be treated as vendors. A public is not to be treated as consumers. Do not transact poetics and people, ever.

She said that requiring measurable outcomes facilitates gatekeeping and hinders bridge-building.

On how art lives in the world

When introducing performances, Edmunds feels compelled to tell audiences:

We have a job together, which is to make a memory. We will be the living archive for this artist, in this moment, in this time. We going to become its permanent collection.

I love this idea. She explains:

Art belongs in the world. It is informed by the maker, its place, city, community, culture, conditions—everything through which it is made—but it isn’t owned by the organization that helped facilitate it. Nor, once it is given by the artist, is it exclusively owned by them. It become owned by a public, in the world, in a memory that we made…

Ownership as a fixed idea is transformed into something else. To me, that transformation is a participation in belonging to the work, to the experience of it, to the acknowledgment of its maker, to the cultural assets that stand with it, and also to us, fleeting or long.

The future completes our work—how it sustains or endures. What is forged in our cultural memory connects us uniquely.

For me, when an artwork exists that way—as a shared memory or an experience ingrained in the body—that’s whats most exciting about working in the realm of aesthetic experiences. That’s why I keep going back to making projects with people, inviting participation, gathering stories, and sharing emotions and experiences.

She also shared this tidbit:

…Art needs to belong in the world because it is how we practice, in the words of Deborah Hay, “the deep ethics of optimism.”

 


Tangent: On “The deep ethics of optimism”

*Since I’m obsessed with optimism I wanted to learn more about what this phrase meant. I found an interview with choreographer Deborah Hay. She said, “A friend of mine who is a poet talks about ‘the deep ethics of optimism.'”

Then I found an interview with writer Zara Houshmand:

Issues of social justice matter to me very much but over time I’ve been more inclined to look inward at deeper sources of change—the mechanisms of empathy, breaking down prejudice, embracing the other, fixing oneself at the root in ways that create a more viable relationship with the rest of the world. In other words, doing the spiritual work to make yourself available for the work of social justice. It goes beyond finding a balance of contemplative and active life, or marshaling limited resources to prevent burn-out. Rather, it’s about what it means to commit to impossible tasks wholeheartedly, the deep ethics of optimism.

This relates to ideas that I keep coming back to, as well as new ideas I am currently discovering:

  • What I’m trying to achieve in my art is space for connection, for people to be whole-hearted, vulnerable, and authentic. Through my work, I am trying to ask, “How do you keep your heart open?” I think this is connected to optimism and embracing the abundance of the world and human goodness, which informs your ethics and how you move through the world and relate to change.
  • What is the relationship between social change and personal growth? This came up a lot in my recent Belonging Project at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. I focused a lot about how belonging feels. Then we looked at how to relate this to how belonging (and othering) happens on institutional scales, on a societal level.
  • I’ve also been thinking more about what it means when “the personal is political.” When are acts of self-care or self-actualization empowering and radical? When are they self-indulgent and afforded by privileged? For whom? In what conditions?
    • Self-care can be radical for people subjected to systematic violence. I identify as a woman of color, and, I’m also East Asian, educated, with sources of income that allow me to pursue being an artist, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, with birthright citizenship and fluent English.
    • I am encountering my own ageism, ableism, and fat-shaming and the loss of privilege afforded youth, ability, and control over my body. I want to challenge these biases to work towards social change and inclusion, AND to accept myself for improved mental health. I recognize that this latter reason is completely self-interested; that this is how privilege works (I didn’t have to think about this before, I could be un-empathetic and uninformed about those affected); and this is how bias works (I couldn’t ‘see’ it until it affected me directly).
  • I’m reading adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy (AK Press [an anarchist worker-run coop🤘🏽], 2017) and “doing the spiritual work to make yourself available for the work of social justice” seems very related.

 

Standard