Fun Facts

Last weekend, I enjoyed the rare honor of speaking publicly about my work twice in the same day.

First, I delivered a guest artist’s talk to a graduate seminar in San Francisco via Skype (a first for me). Emphasizing the vicissitudes of my life in the arts, I shared a factoid I learned from Creative Capital’s Professional Development workshop. I hope I remembered it correctly:

One positive response for every 13 to 15 applications for grants, residencies and awards is a pretty good average.

(Artists: It’s Spring deadline season. How are your applications coming along? Listings here.)

Being an artist can be variously trivial, serendipitous, laborious, or intentional. So I might have over-explained my art for these students, but it seems a worthy risk if it counter-balances, at least a bit, the obfuscation and unspoken rules about engaging the art world as an emerging artist.

While I wanted to convey the principle, nothing free—paying dues and investing sweat equity—I came away marveling at my good fortune to have benefitted from so many supportive organizations, foundations, and individuals… such as people who dream big, put in work, show up, share, and ask good questions—like the seminar students. The end of the Q&A came too soon.

Then, I participated in a group artists’ talk alongside other artists in Voices of Home at Jenkins Johnson Gallery. Independent curator Kalia Brooks did a great job moderating the panel, which included wave-splashing painting teachers and self-effacing younger artists. The artists have varied practices, terrain enough for an engaging discussion.

The audience, which exceeded the gallery’s seating capacity, was really great; thanks to everyone who attended.

The talk was organized in recognition of Black History Month, so with a panel of all (but one) Black artists, the subject of race and representation in the art field came up for discussion.

For emerging artists in San Francisco, New York City might still be seen as an art world center, with the center-of-the-center being Chelsea. For a panel of largely Black artists, speaking to a largely African American audience in a commercial gallery in Chelsea, geography was a non-issue, but access, via the lens of identity, was still a concern.

Some of the artists rejected the idea that they ought contend with identity in the studio, but no one disavowed as much when it came to engaging the professional field and the public realm.

Have you fantasized about de-activating your Facebook account? Me, too. Paul Martin’s definition of addiction—desire without pleasure—has characterized my recent experiences.

The headline,

“The Anti-Social Network: By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad,”

of Libby Copeland’s article on Slate last year provides a clue to the problem.

Here is some irony about positive sentiments: I tried to keep my status updates positive, but willfully-upbeat presentations may actually be annoying, and en masse, distressing. I don’t think this undermines the value of optimism and positive enthusiasm in general, but speaks to Facebook’s perniciousness as a substitute for interaction and companionship.

So I’m taking a Facebook hiatus. It’s been four days, though it seems longer than that. Congratulations to me, I know. <Hallelujah hands.> [Sarcastic, I know. But I ought to share my un-Photoshopped sentiments, too, apparently. You have to start somewhere, buddies.]

One more fun fact, by way of Ritter Sport chocolates:

What Germans call “Halbbitter” (literally, “Half bitter”) is the same as what Americans call “semi-sweet.”

The half-full, half-empty optimism/pessimism riddle just got a chocolate-y analogue.