One of the things that has been whirling about in my head lately is an issue I have with my own work. I do in fact have two faces. One of them is of a serious, committed, professional abstractionist whose work has been shown in many galleries and who continues to show her work everywhere an opportunity arises. The other side is that of a fantasy artist - I love to paint romantic pictures of Gods, Faeries, and other mythological beings. I live in fear of not being taken seriously in the art realm because of this "great divide" that exists within me. I have never been able to successfully resolve this.
When I was working on my MFA at Goddard College, I attempted to address the issue in my work there. For a time, it kind of worked. I wound up creating an entire Tarot deck (which I hope to publish later this summer) and then created an installation piece where I could read the Tarot to people seeking help. However, an installation piece tends to be fleeting - it stays up for as long as one has the space in which to install it - and then it comes down. The works I created for the installation were silk paintings, in the style I use for abstraction - and they acted as "walls" for the piece. I loved doing this - I had a friend - Ivo Dominguez, Jr - compose some music for me to allow the space to act as a total sensory experience. So why not do this again?
Because at heart, I am a painter, not an installation artist. I find myself going back and forth as I seem to be called by my muse, which is fine to me. The only place where this seems to be a problem is the art world itself. I know that the galleries that love my abstract work would most likely reject the fantasy work - and certainly vice versa.
I have no answers, only that I know I will paint that which I am called to paint. My work has never really been about making large sales (although I would certainly not reject that option!), it has been about creating that which moves me spiritually. I have had to develop a thick skin as an artist to deal with the inevitable rejection that comes from one place or another and I have come to accept that. I just wish that the art world was not so rigid.
I do often look at the example of a group of artists who are known as the "Black Romantics." These are African American artists who do not seem to really need the mainstream gallery system. They sell their work to collectors and create the works they wish to create. Thelma Golden, of the Museum in Harlem, gave them a show a few years back, but acknowledged that these artists did not really "need" her - they had found a way to operate outside the gallery system.
I think perhaps I could learn a lot from their example. And perhaps other artists should too - perhaps it is time that artists broke free from the rigidity of the gallery system and established their own rules. In this place and time, in this economy, it may be a question of survival.