As I wrote in my last post, things here in Milwaukee are really ramping up. There are a lot more events happening, opportunities to apply to and socializing to be had. Simultaneously, however, the end of my "money-making" teaching contracts are quickly approaching. While I'm trying to be present and focused to end these contracts and projects well, I'm also starting to the feel the pressure of trying to find "what's next" and prepping myself for this time of transition.
This is the part of being an artist/freelancer that is quite frankly, really fucking hard. I trade in financial stability for flexibility. So sure, while people are always enamored and jealous of my travels - I need those vacations for all the time I spend freaking out that I will be jobless, penniless and hungry. At the end of the day, however, for me I'd much rather dictate my own schedule than be locked into a certain location 40+ hours a week and being told I can't take another vacation because I've used up all my PTO. Of course, freedom is never really free... but it sure felt like it when I was sitting in a pool on a beach in Mexico drinking Rose Champagne. Right now, however, I'd give anything to be on a beach instead of letting the panic set in as my last contracted days of work and last paycheck date gets closer and closer.
I've also had quite the few rejections as of late. Another aspect of an artist that isn't glamorous at all and consistently has me wondering: why did I choose this line of work and lifestyle? I'm always one to stay positive and most days I truly believe when one door closes another one will open. Sometimes, however, I wonder what it means when several doors slam in your face...
Perseverance is hard when you're consistently told no, no thank you and/or please apply again next year. And trust me, I often feel like giving up and doing anything else. You see, when I'm rejected from something it's hard not to take it personal because my work IS personal. My work is an extension of myself so when I hear "no" I have to somehow convince myself that my work, my story is still important and still worth making and sharing.
Another issue I've been facing here in Milwaukee is explaining and advocating for the work I do. I joke I'm an artist that doesn't make anything but I probably should stop making that joke because I recently got a follow up email from a residency I applied to asking, 'How likely will it be for you to either create artwork or hire another artist to produce the artwork?' I don't apply for medical residencies because the likelihood of me practicing medicine is 0% but I do apply to writing and artist residencies because I want to write and make art! So this follow-up question really had me offended and in shock.
So here is my PSA about art: NOT ALL ARTISTS PAINT. AND FURTHERMORE, NOT ALL ARTISTS WHO WORK IN THE COMMUNITY, MAKE MURALS.
I am an artist who tells stories through all different mediums - often that is writing, performance and video. That being said, I've also used a lot of 2D and 3D elements in my work! If I'm not an artist who makes artwork than I legit have no idea what to call myself. I think people get tripped up because I don't have that "go to medium." My work is often very investigative and journalistic in approach. I like to dive deep on my subject and then figure out how best to express what I've discovered. I'm a social practice artist and it's a term that people are really late in adopting even though it's been around for years and years and years and years. To make things more confusing, I'm not only an artist. I am also an educator and most recently a radio personality (haha but seriously check out my show We Heard We're Funny!). I truly think people need to try harder to keep up with the fact that people, particularly artists, can be, and I go ahead and say it, SHOULD BE dynamic.
It's hard to quiet everyone else's thoughts, questions and perceptions of your work negatively buzzing in your ear. But I was just reminded of the Andy Warhol quote I posted above. At the end of the day, I make art because I genuinely believe it's part of the reason I'm living and breathing. And even though there have been countless people who don't understand, appreciate or like my work, there have been plenty who do. And I create solely for the purpose that my creation can spark change at whatever level that may be.
Luckily, it doesn't take much to remind me why I continue to do what I do. As my high school students start to present, unveil and celebrate their art projects one by one, I am so excited by how their hard work is manifesting. Once they are all complete, I will write a love note dedicated solely to these amazing experiences and to show off all my students' work!
It has been quite the journey these last six months and while I cant exactly say what is going to happen the second half of this year/beginning of my second year in Milwaukee, I am hopeful that it will continue to be rewarding, exciting and most importantly, fun.
'Til next time... xoxo