Rent is actually paid but a tight squeeze this month –that loss of income for one week vacation– coupled with the airplane ticket to visit family (priceless) oh and that other trip. . .in April. For friendship (priceless). I tried to sublet and it almost worked perfectly until it didn’t. Life is an adventure. Still I live as if I have enough. Okay more than enough, well because on so many levels I suppose I do. I have to admit on the financial scale I’ve been moving backwards since moving to Santa Fe from Alaska nearly 5 years ago, and really one month away from moving into my car. Still the balance sheet dries in my favor as I contemplate the share apartment ads or moving to Mexico or how to seek funding from a friend in a way that sounds like a real grant proposal request. Value added. But there are too many others in need that my cheerleading for self-serving interests seems morally corrupt. But hey it’s America. Go for it. Land of plenty and equal opportunity for all and democracy prevails and I pledge allegiance and all that jazz. . .afterall art does matter.
On that thought I go back through a few grant/residency applications for review, and Google sample donation seeking letters for individual artists — but it is likely my own lack of a sense of value is the roadblock. And so I spend the morning on CaFE applying ($36) for a free art residency in Mexico and wonder if it is offered how will I afford the airfare and loss of wages (to pay the bills that remain –that pesky student loan –oh and rent too) which leads me back to the seeking funding from friends idea. Not YOU of course. Someone else. Just one person really, who isn’t reading this blog, but is it a good idea? Does it open the door for obligation or sexual favors –you know THAT kind of thing? Hence the filtering through old proposals trying to make it as professional as possible but suddenly it sounds so much like whining –asking people to choose you. Can you hear it? Listen. CHOOSE ME. And while I do believe I am deserving how to express that in a way that actually sounds as if I am the most deserving — (add context here). My project is basically ordinary and lifelong and nothing life changing for the community at large: The occasional poet paints or conversations from Lake Chapala (on canvas). An experiment of language. No murals under bridges. Not because I don’t believe in “community” but I generally support from an inner landscape. A seat at the back of the room. BECAUSE it becomes the cause for another cause. And with that, for me, the stress of failing, the exposure out loud in front of an audience, a black hole of expectation, an obligation (oh my!) –back to that part about criticism –(ouch). Of course the point is that it is actually directed and focused and rewarding. Okay. I’m trembling here. My dream is supported solitude and the adventure of meandering in a time out of place. Specifically near a large body of water. To allow the freedom of creativity to prevail because it will. Then maybe yes I can do the mural on the subway walls like the one I designed that got an A+ gold star for a day in a class where I never could get the body in proportion on one sheet of paper. But I have other talents. We all do. I know I’m capable. It’s the judgment I fear. I need a dose of courage. ROAR. I’m sure the pharmaceutical evangelists can set me up. For a small fee.
And so I decide to share my last attempt for a grant below (whine and all). Cheers. One awarded to painters 45 or older. I was not one of the lucky recipients. The essay question: Why do you consider yourself under-recognized as an artist? (and) How would funding help you in your practice? This is out of context and edited to add some humor for the purpose of this blog. I’d ask for your thoughts but I probably can’t bear the humiliation. So you can keep them to yourself –thank you very much.
Why do you consider yourself under-recognized as an artist? How would funding help you in your practice?
Why do I consider myself under-recognized? I suppose the obvious reason is lack of visibility, and the other is partially our culture’s stunted perception of art-making as a viable career. The need to meet basic expenses such as rent and groceries leads me to cobble together several day jobs as a resource for daily living. To survive. And of course my introverted nature, while blessing me with the gift for creative problem solving and insight, keeps me a bit outside our new world order of social media and marketing or selling guns on the black market –but I do reach out: to Facebook, a blog, my own website. I venture forth on these platforms carefully. A toe in the water, mostly from the fear of exposure, retaliation and ridicule (deep water here –all those childhood wounds of criticism and make fun of: bookworm, lazy, clumsy, houseplant “stupid” the phone -–well you get the picture). Art has the potential to raise questions. To push into emotional joy and trauma and beauty and insight. To stir things up and to comfort. All things intangible yet essentially vital to promote a sustainable society. As an artist, I believe I am exploring the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Aren’t we all? Afterall, my heart is out there in full color and –at the end of the day I am willing to accept the responsibility of greater visibility. My small works have been accepted into a new contemporary fine art gallery in Santa Fe (sale pending in fact). I am hanging with some very reputable artists. On display for company or candlelight. . .
Note: being represented by a fine art gallery does not necessarily guarantee a sustainable income. Still I am grateful.
I recently wrote on my blog, in reference to new work in progress, “what do you think?” Work I felt proud of, excited by, a breakthrough. Hopeful. But an emotional risk asking such things of others. While it might draw love, praise, a financial ping, support, etc., it also carries the possibility of ridicule or shame. The joy of recognition is thrilling. Everyone loves to win, loves being accepted as a serious artist and being rewarded for what is deemed an “untraditional” career choice.
What would it be like if I were paid to get up everyday and go to the studio instead of relying on sales from my work or running errands for other people as Girl Friday/Personal Assistant? (though these often incredulous and interesting interludes do provide fodder for potential writings and sketches). The financial rewards of receiving a grant as a great relief from stress cannot be separated from the fantastic joy of being validated as an artist. To have people buy your work is certainly rewarding yet I cannot rely solely on the impression of others for my well-being as a creative person. I create because it is a calling. The process of making art is who I am. A work in progress for sure but fully intentional or possibly happenstance, still I hope I am giving the best parts of myself to the world. To be anything less is the failing.
For several years I have wanted to work bigger –60”x60” or more. Curious how changing scale will affect my painting. Even the physicality of working larger. Will the smaller works transfer and bloom? I think they will. In response to my 12”x12” abstracts people have said, “Oh, this would look great bigger.” This size and the square format have worked well for exploring composition, color and texture – and though these works stand on their own, I sometimes view them as maquettes. A practice for something greater. About a year ago I painted two 48”x24” works with some success. One sold. One is now weathering on the fence in my yard as I contemplate the composition. I tried throwing it into the trash after taking it down from a show but it was too big so it ended up on the fence. I rather like it there where I see it everyday from my window. And to some extent rebelling against creativity as economics, to value myself and my process and to surrender to art on the fence versus art in the gallery is very liberating. Though truthfully the grant would be validating and relief from economic stress. At least temporarily and this is enough.
I moved into a smaller apartment to save $200/month and still I wake up each morning calculating my resources, trying to remember what odd jobs I have so I don’t forget or overbook, and wonder how can I market my work so art can help pay the rent? This grant would take away some of the financial burden of the day to day and allow more devoted studio time to explore ideas, to push, loosen up, and grow forward. I feel ripe and deserving. My new work represents a positive direction for me. Cleaner palette, playful shapes, expression, experimentation. I see myself as a painter with potential to make great work. Any resources are gratefully appreciated (well this part is probably true).
Now available on ETSY 12″x12″ original photos/uniquely framed – $160 + shipping
Brenda Roper is an artist and occasional poet who currently lives in a small studio in a great neighborhood in Santa Fe, NM where she cobbles together a variety of jobs including walking dogs and falling flat on her face when they suddenly dash after a shape in the dark (true story). She recently opened an ETSY shop to showcase her unique and colorful painterly photos and her small abstracts on canvas can be seen (and purchased) at Kristin Johnson Fine Art.