Category Archives: Confessions of an Incurable Artist

Heels Encaustic Sculpture by Kim Bruce

How Quitting Art Helped my Art Career

Last winter (2016-17) I reached the end of my rope. I was dangling by a thread. Do I fall or do I quit? I decided to quit. We have all been there at one time or another. It gets frustrating, demoralizing and causes all sorts of angst to keep putting yourself out there only to be rejected over and over. I had been there before but this was different, really different, I was so done.

One of the straws was to get a solo show in the USA, but no artist’s fee to speak of. I CAN’T KEEP THROWING MONEY AT THIS!!!! The cost to crate, ship and travel there and back from Canada would be upwards of $3000. I was deflated, no wind, no sails, it was a good little gallery too, highly recommended. To complicate things there’s the current political climate in the states and I had to ask myself; do I really want to take a feminist exhibition to the deep south and travel there? I already boycotted my show in Seattle so I could stand firm with those affected by the travel ban, should I do that again?  

So, I made accepting this show contingent on getting a grant. There, I said to myself, done, the decision to travel will be made for me. I won’t get the grant, I live in Alberta where arts funding hard to get and the economy sucks.

I stopping trying for other reasons as well, one being inventory. I have so much inventory. Well over 200 pieces and no motivation to make more. I can find something else to do. I always wanted to bake. That’s what I will do. I will bake… cookies, and I will eat them all. And I did. This works for me. Baking is creative, it’s a process and there is something delectable at the end that most everyone will like.

But before I open my home bakery, I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision, so on the last day of the AFA’s deadline for acquisition I submitted my shoe project work. They turned it down once before, but I figured this would be the last time I will be able to submit that work because it will be over 5 years since creation and that is one of the criteria. I wanted them to reject me, I wanted affirmation on my decision to QUIT!

The other last ditch effort I made was to submit my Disbound show to 4 public galleries in southern Alberta. I have never been successful in getting a solo show here, up in Edmonton yes, but never around here. Again, I wanted to set myself up for failure. I wanted confirmation that no one wanted to show the work, because then I could tell myself that I gave it my best shot and it wasn’t for lack of trying. There DONE, where’s the flour?

Fast forward a few months you will find me happily watching the Food Network, cooking and baking up a storm. I love scones, and I learnt how to make them, life is good and does go on!

Then one morning I am checking my email and I see one from the AFA. So, I say to myself, they are emailing their rejection letters now. Good, let’s get this over with, only thing is, it wasn’t a rejection. In fact it was the first of 5 acceptance emails.

  • I got the grant to travel the show to Cecelia Coker Bell Gallery in South Carolina
  • The AFA bought my shoe project piece “Well Heeled”.
  • 3 out of the 4 public galleries that I applied to accepted the Disbound exhibition. AND to make things worse for quitting…
  • My work started to sell at my commercial gallery in Seattle.

WTF, I QUIT!!! Or so I thought. Maybe I am on sabbatical. Maybe I will go up to the studio and look around.

What Will Happen if I Quit Trying

Peace, too peaceful? Not really.
Quiet, too quiet? No.
Sad? a little.

Acceptance? Yes acceptance.
I am accepting of who I am. I know that sounds cliche, but we have cliches for a reason.  That is what I SHOULD, (did you just say should?) damn right I did. I SHOULD HAVE ACCEPTED WHO I AM YEARS AGO. But alas I had no idea I could. Besides I had no idea who is was. I was too busy placing expectations on myself.

Expectation to achieve
Expectation to earn
Expectation to succeed
Expectation to be worldly
Expectation to be smart
Expectation to be a role model
Expectation to be a leader
Expectation to be professional
Expectation to have nice things
Expectation to have a beautiful home
Expectation to have well designed, decorated, beautiful home

Damn, that’s a lot of expectations. No wonder I have tummy troubles and smoked. Yes, I was a smoker. I quit in 2013. Since then I have been forced to find a new way to live life. I did not go easily into that good night, more like being dragged, not kicking and screaming, but like a poor pup being dragged into the vet. I got depressed and super sensitive.

I was angry
I was sad
I was hungry
I was thirsty
I was lonely
I was getting fat
I found my anxiety

I kept going with the same expectations. After all I owned them. Only now I did not have my coping device. Only now I had only me and I got no where for a long time. I kept creating art, it was my therapy. Or so I thought.

Art was a place I could go to hide. Immerse myself. Avoid myself.
I created lots of work. So much art.

I have to show that art
I have to sell that art
I have to appreciate that art
I have to get a grant so I can show that work
I have to get representation so I can sell that work
I have to get lots of galleries so I can sell that work

I can not let all these have to’s interfere with what the work means to me. I can do that, I am a professional.

What if I don’t want to be a professional?
What if I want a simple life?
What if I didn’t really care about selling?
What if recognition didn’t really matter that much?
What if I let go?
What if I said enough already?

What would happen if I said that out loud? Made it public. Would it be real? Would I be making a commitment to quitting? What exactly am I quitting?
Am I quitting making art?
Am I withdrawing from the culture?
Is this what I want? Not to be an artist? Can an artist quit being an artist?

FOOTNOTE: I wrote this 6 months ago but only published it now because I have more to add. It’s all good. I’ll write about what happened in my next post.

Finding My Conviction (Canadian artist refuses to attend her show in USA)

In light of current political events in the USA that are deeply affecting the entire world, I have the following statement regarding my upcoming show in the USA.

From my artist statement…
My work is full of visual puns, double entendre, symbolism and satire. It references the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. These contradictions allow me to expose my private self through veiled metaphor creating objects significant beyond function. The underlying message – the essence of my work – speaks to the roles and rights of girls and women.

Keeper of the Faith, Encaustic, copper pot scrubber, glass vials, book pages & string, 23″h x 4.25″w x 5″d

My work has meaning. It’s about choice. It’s about girls, and boys too, but mostly girls, who, due to tradition or religion, don’t get to choose. They are married off as soon as they hit puberty and often left to fend for themselves and their children because of war, strife or circumstance.

Gender inequality exists. It exists in Canada, the USA, throughout the western world, but is most prevalent in developing nations. I want to bring awareness to the importance of education and the role it has in shaping future generations. If girls are educated and given choices, they can influence the world.


I’d like to share a few stats with you. Plan Canada and its subsidiary Because I am a Girl states that…

1. For every extra year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 10 to 20%
2. A girl in the developing world receiving 7 years of education marries 4 years later on average and has fewer, yet healthier, children
3. If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths

Knowledge is power and knowledge is empowering. There’s choice. When there is no alternative there is no choice.


Henigman Bruce – Justice, Encaustic, fabric, book pages & string, 16.5″h x 4.25″w x 4.5″d

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am part of a 2 person show opening at Frederick Holmes in Seattle on March 3. It means I get to take my white privilege and cross the border into the United States from Canada. I have a Canadian passport, so I should be able to travel unhindered.

EXCEPT, how in good conscious can I travel unhindered when the rights the very people my work speaks to are being detained and turned back?

An incident on Feb 4 had a Canadian woman turned away from U.S. border after questions about religion. She was turned back because she’s muslim. We were told that if you had a Canadian passport there would be no problem crossing the border. They forgot to say you also had to be white, and show no outward signs of your ethnicity.

I could go to the opening and speak about education for girls to a handful of people who already know how important it is. Or I can take this stand and just say NO, it’s not right.

I know, little ol’ me, who is going to notice. Simple. I am going to notice and it is me that I have to live with.

I am very grateful for the support from Frederick Holmes on my boycott of my own show. He works tirelessly for his artists and will be my standin.

Here is Fred’s statement:

 “As her gallery dealer the last few years, and one who has come to know Kim Bruce’s passionate dedication to the mission of her work – as well as an American citizen concerned about the marginalization of people by gender, faith, or race – I support her decision absolutely and without reservation. Her presence at the opening will be missed but her work will speak for her.” – Frederick R. Holmes

As individuals, as artists, as Canadians, as citizens of the world, we must find our conviction.

My conviction says NO, we must stand united.

Further reading:

Canadian woman en route to Vermont spa denied entry to U.S., told she needs immigrant visa

22 refugees entered Manitoba near Emerson border over the weekend

5th Canadian reports being denied entry to U.S. after questions about Moroccan roots, Muslim faith

Pre-clearance bill would give U.S. border agents in Canada new powers

EXHIBITION IMAGES