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.

MATERIAL MEMORIES

A Special Gallery Exhibition Featuring
Internationally Acclaimed Contemporary Artists,
Kim Henigman Bruce & Naoko Morisawa
March 2 – April 2, 2017
Opening First Thursday, March 2, 2017 6:00-8:30 pm

MATERIAL MEMORIES explores personal and cultural memory, metaphor, and mission, through work created in simple, ancient materials – beeswax (Kim Henigman Bruce) and wood or paper (Naoko Morisawa) – made relevant to a contemporary era. Both artists draw from their personal lives and their respective cultural history – Henigman Bruce is from Calgary, Canada and Morisawa, raised in Yokohama, Japan, currently resides in Seattle, WA.
Both women are highly skilled, independent artists from two distinctively different cultures and backgrounds, who share a common practice of art as a transcendent force for consciousness, social progress, and our common humanity.

HENIGMAN BRUCE – JUSTICE, Encaustic, fabric, book pages & string, 16.5″h x 4.25″w x 4.5″d

Kim Henigman Bruce grew up in Calgary, Alberta, where she currently resides and received her arts education at The Alberta College of Art and Design and The University of Calgary. Her mother’s love of books was an early influence, and they’ve played a critical role as the key unifying object in her sculpture’s narratives. Books became a metaphor for knowledge; a message she’s honed well over many years as a professional artist with numerous international exhibitions.

Her work speaks predominantly to girls and women; often from cultures in which women have no choices other than those pre-determined by the culture’s tradition. “Knowledge is power and knowledge is empowering. There’s choice. When there is no alternative there is no choice.”

Ms. Bruce has elected not to attend the show’s opening in protest of this administration’s still-pending travel ban. The gallery stands with our artist and supports her decision without reservation. Her statement can be found here: http://henigmanbruce.com/finding-my-conviction/

NAOKO MORISAWA ENERGY VII – ENLIVENED, UNITED (2017) 40″ x 30″ Mosaic Collage – Oil Stained Wood & Paper, Acrylic, Oil, Washi on Board

Naoko Morisawa, born in Tokyo, raised in Yokohama, Japan, and now residing in Seattle, received her BA in Design and Ceramics from Tama Art University, Tokyo. Her wood mosaics are contemporary updates of the traditional art of Japanese wood mosaic, yosegi, popular in Japan’s Edo Period (1615-1868). Drawing inspiration from this ancient cultural history, her hand-crafted mosaics – meticulously composed of hand cut wood and/or paper, and stained in brilliant, complimentary hues – reflect the spirit of Edo Japonism; Noh and Kabuki theatre; ukiyo-e; the traditions of Kimono design; and reverence for nature; as well as more personal, whimsical subjects. Morisawa, who also taught art in Tokyo and Yokohama, has created several public, site-specific installations throughout the Puget Sound region, has been featured in numerous juried national and international gallery exhibitions, won dozens of awards and honors, and was selected for The Dublin Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Dublin, Ireland. Immediately following the opening of “Material Memories”, she leaves for Texas where she’s included in the Women’s Invitational Exhibition 2017, at The Eisemann Center of Performing and Visual Arts in Richardson, TX. (www.naokomorisawa.com)


FREDERICK HOLMES AND COMPANY
GALLERY OF MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART
309 OCCIDENTAL AVENUE SOUTH
SEATTLE, WA 98104
(206) 682-0166
WWW.FREDERICKHOLMESANDCOMPANY.COM