I think dealing with the politics of art is essential. Those who know it can do it, but there are many of us who learned this stuff the hard way and are still interested in learning.
So I thought I'd like to talk about the different usual tiers for artists. Maybe understanding where we fit will help. I often wonder why some artists show where they show. I am trying to really think about that for myself. I have learned to turn down exhibitions that I don't see as beneficial. (The reasons are varied.) So far trusting my instinct, based on experience of course, has paid off.
Let's make a list of the usual steps today's artists will transit on their way to the mountaintop. Some "artists" like the children and the elephants who are getting major exposure obviously skip these steps. You tell me if I left off anything and if you even believe this is nonsense or you believe something else.
Here's the list:
2. Graduate Student
3. Emerging/professional artist
4. Established/professional artist
5. Mid-career/professional artist
6. Master/professional artist
The student levels are fairly easy. They are learning their medium/media, and being exposed to methods, materials and art history. They learn how to present their work. They engage in internships, critiques, and student only exhibitions (many juried exhibitions deny access to students). They develop artist statements. Age is not a factor. Graduate students are getting more shows. Did you see the M.F.A.'s at Artropolis?
Emerging artist is hazy. You may hear that "emerging" means you have not had a solo exhibition in a museum, or simply you are just out of school or just starting to present your work to the public. Generally speaking we associate "emerging" with young age. But older artists could also be emerging for various reasons.. I think it is up to the artist, in a way. Sometimes it is advantageous to be emerging and sometimes not. (I always feel like I fit into this category because there is still so much to know.) This is that beginning stage after any training, if you choose to take that route, but when you are starting to be accepted into juried and being chosen for invitational exhibitions. For many emerging artists, groups shows are a good way to be seen.
Established artist means you have had many exhibitions in galleries, both commercial and educational institutions, perhaps a museum or two, maybe public art, along with publications; that might include a feature story and critical reviews, if you are lucky, catalogs.
Mid-career means you are getting older. You have developed a particular sensibility and your ideas and your products should reflect your maturity. You are exhibiting in more established venues, hopefully getting fees and honorariums, plus expenses when you travel to other states and abroad. You will continue to pursue grants, fellowships and awards. You are asked to present on panels, juries and share the accumulated knowledge you have acquired. You may do more solo exhibitions. You could find that you want to make dramatic changes in what you produce. You hope to be in museums and in collections.
Master artist means you are dead.
Well, tell me what you think! And name some of the Masters that are alive.
"Writer's on the Roof", oil on canvas
painted when I was emerging.