Talking About Linking Private Space to Public Venue.
How does the author of any piece of creative work link inner and outer worlds in such a way that he/she is not left feeling intruded upon and resentful? It is only with anguish and anxiety that many an artist gives up his/her best piece to the gallery wall. For some, the prospect of monetary compensation in exchange for the most treasured and valued of his/her work is perceived as a small consolation for the loss of an irreplaceable object. For the artist who experiences him/herself in such a quandary, the sale is not an occasion for celebration but rather a time of despair and mourning. Like a Janus-faced figure, this side is rarely, with the possible exceptions of post mortem publications, presented to the public.
Gallery owners, curators, consultants and coaches alike are understandably baffled by finding resistance and often a behavioral response closely resembling grief where jubilation and cooperation were expected. Family members, significant others, maybe an empathic landlord, and the artist him-self often feel frustrated and perplexed by such, shall I dare say, morbid reactions.
The inexplicable and painful reaction to loss of an object crafted by oneself challenged me to put together a workshop that might begin to help the layman as well as the professional. I wanted to address this issue in such a way that the gestalt – the dynamics of the whole issue – were not obscured by one part in favor or exclusion of the other. The New York City Art Teachers Association (NYCATA/ UFT) accepted my proposal and it is to this workshop “The Business of Marketing Your Art” that I refer.
It was to be my fourth year of presenting workshops and seminars sponsored by them and given at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, in New York, NY. The conference theme this year was simply “ART WORKS.” My two guest panelists were Miguel Herrera and Renee Phillips. Herrera is a curator and the owner and manager of the 2/20 Gallery in Chelsea. Phillips is an artist career consultant/coach, the author of three books, and Editor-in-Chief of this magazine.
My theme, Linking Private Space to Public Venue was presented within the context of describing how thewhole idea for this workshop came about in the first place. The brief odyssey of “how” was intentionally gleaned from my personal experience and professional training as both artist and psychotherapist. I hoped it would be used by others as a sort of template in following their own process of holding onto that all too illusory glimmer of nascent thought and carefully nurturing it to fruition.
If possible, I have a preference for working from personal experience, which includes the internalized experience of others. Knowledge, self-possession and sincerity are key elements in effectively communicating one’s thoughts; talent and hard work are helpful in locating a public audience for one’s painting, sculpture, or writing; and so on. In taking those first courageous steps outside one’s private space it also helps to know when the burden of doing the Herculean task of carrying the load by oneself is too much.
The catalyst for linking the two the private to the public self – is often the “other” or another person. Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher and mystic conceptualized this for us in first his little book, / and Thou (1923) and in greater detail in Between Man and Man (1955). My own simple story of how I came to include, to embrace, to take in “the other” is briefly as follows.
I always credit the phenomenon of chance or serendipity when something really good comes my way. It is only after the fact that I stop to also give myself that much needed pat on the back. Despite the hurricane-like conditions, I was attending to the business of being an artist. I was going to galleries to see what kind of mark-making or painting was going up on the walls. I met Miguel Herrera at an opening at his gallery, 2/20, and discovered that our paths had indirectly crossed many years ago. He knew Andy Stasik who ran the Pratt Institute for the Graphic Arts where I was an assistant. The Institute he reminded me was then on Broadway and shared building space with Paul Jenkins, a contemporary of Andy Warhol. With these small exchanges a foundation developed and with it a dialogue. I asked if he’d lend his expertise to a panel discussion which was then, still in the formulation stage, but if accepted would take place in November. Gratefully, he accepted.
“A psychotherapist, such as myself, who works from a psychoanalytic perspective, encourages the individual artist to face internal blocks which tend to inhibit full expression of his/her talent. In the process of recognizing resistance to treatment, we work to buildor improve on existing ego strengths…
Also, a dash of serendipity went into the mix of meeting Renee Phillips. But again, I was engaged in doing the business of being an artist and psychotherapist. Gaye Elise Beda, a practicing and exhibiting artist who helped me at a previous conference attended my Creativity and Creative Process Workshops. She introduced my ideas to Renee who then asked me to send her an outline of my thoughts on the subject of creativity and creative proc-ess. In a matter of months I was writing for Manhattan Arts International. She also accepted my invitation to lend her expertise to a panel discussion.
In order to both distinguish between the panelists and my own separate disciplines and yet unite us in our common concern: the artist and his/her work, I employed the ordinary device of a flow chart. Using this traditional teaching tool, I guided an audience of artist/teachers in visualizing their place along a continuum of private to public venues: working in private to produce their work to publicly marketing the work. An artist seeking help from a psychotherapist, and direction from an art career counselor or gallery owner might begin his/her quest at any point along the helping continuum.
A psychotherapist, such as myself, who works from a to face internal blocks which tend to inhibit full expression of his/her talent. In the process of recognizing resistance to treatment, we work to build or improve on existing ego strengths – a sense of self worth and self value – and simultaneously shrink the superego or the critical and often sabotaging internal editor. In certain instances, this is requisite to an artist sharing his or her work with the larger public. In the case of educators one part of that public might be an audience of students who, like a host of external versus internal editors, tend to act as both critic and supervisor. Writers, dancers, musicians, actors – none are spared both the joy and sorrow of the vicissitudes of performing in front of an audience.
I also briefly segued into my ebb and flow concept of creativity and how it manifests itself in individual behavior: feelings of confusion, fear of success, stage-fright, and what will I do when it’s over?
The next point highlighted in my guided flow chart journey is an artist career consultant and coach such as Renee. Her workshops, books and individual consultations are all aimed at helping the artist. She may, for instance, counsel the creative individual about the benefit of having balance and harmony among values, goals and strategies. One of the strategies developed might involve approaching a curator or gallery owner, such as Miguel, about an exhibit. These steps might have to be repeated as the artist sets bigger career goals and truly inspires to reach as Renee would say “their career potential.
Recently, one of the very successful artist members of my private ongoing creativity and creative process group said that she considered marketing her product part of the creative process. This statement triggered a most interesting and revealing discussion. Like a squall accompanying a tornado, questions from group members fairly swirled around the room. “Who is really an artist? What is an artist? Am I really an artist if I try to market my own work?” Jane, as I will call her, felt supported by the group and was able for the first time to accept their comments and questions as signs of genuine caring and interest rather than as critical attacks directed against her. As she allowed herself to truly join the group by returning their interest in both her and her work, she visibly relaxed and her voice lowered. Then, she asked others about their work. She ceased to ignore my efforts at clarification and became reflective, attentive and appreciative of my interventions. It was my feeling that this example taken from my practice touched on what might trigger the hypothetical artist mentioned at the conference above into recognizing that he/she would benefit from help. Such experience over time leads to freeing one’s energy and makes it more possible to create to one’s fullest potential. An object experienced as lost to a sale such as a painting, book or piece of music can then be healthfully missed and let go. The artist is then free to go on to a kind of healing or reparation and then to the next creative endeavor.
As planned, “The Business of Marketing Your Art” workshop continued nearby at Lincoln Center at the Cork Gallery, Avery Fisher Hall. Myself and others who had works on exhibit there were treated to continued good talk about our work and art in general. Stepping out was great fun!
14 MANHATTAN ARTS INTERNATIONAL SUMMER 1998