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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Research

Visiting Artist’s Residencies

Artist-in-resident talks frankly about residencies. 

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan shares the scoop on how to visit an artist’s colony, without being a resident. Along the way, she divulges the charms and annoyances of artist residency programs, including Djerassi, the Headlands, MacDowell, Yaddo, Ragdale, and the Studios at Key West.

Many artists don’t publish their thoughts about anyone who’s largesse they’ve benefitted from, either out of shyness, appreciation, or caginess. It’s a shame. There’s so much lack of transparency in the art world, and artists are just as guilty. Cheers to Tan.

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Values, Meta-Practice

Only in an obfuscating art world does transparency seem radical

Some generative, collective thoughts for transparency and against competition.

Thinking about all the things that are supposed to go unspoken in the art world, and artists’ self-preservation, and how even a teeny bit of transparency can seem risky or radical in the obfuscating art world. Our battles seem so hard won, why share any insight with others? Exactly because none of this is easy. Info and access are the easy bits, relative to good work, persistence, and longevity.

“Every interaction involves a choice between collaboration and competition, and to what degree. Eventually you have to choose the world you want to live in.”

—TC

“So much of the way that the art world is structured favors competition. Grants are competitive. … Artists compete with artists–stealing ideas instead of sharing them, or using copyright laws to guard against thoughtful re-use. Artists compete for shows in a limited number of exhibition spaces instead of finding their own ways to exhibit outside of these competitive venues. Artists conceal opportunities from their friends as a way of getting an edge up on the capital-driven competition. … This is a treadmill made from decomposing shit that is so devoid of nutrients that even its compost won’t allow anything fresh to grow. We need something better to run on. … Working toward a global network where one creates opportunities and, in turn, can respond to limitless opportunities without the pressure to compete, allows for a more generous, diverse and open art practice.”

Marc Fisher (Temporary Services), “Against Competition,” Blunt Art Text #2, April 2006 via Stephanie Syjuco/Free Texts

 

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Art Competition Odds

art competition odds: Franklin Furnace

In 2011, the Franklin Furnace Fund received over 350 applications for 14 grants.

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or about 1:25, or 4%.

[Franklin Furnace publishes the numbers of applications and awards for annual competitions on their site. Cheers to them for promoting transparency.]

See all Art Competition Odds.

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