I could have remained naive or maybe gotten lucky.
Most artists I know are unaware of how the art world works...that is, the international art market. Me, too! I just thought I had to learn how to paint. I thought that someone would discover me. Then I just had to get into shows and sort of work my way up. I always liked being in group shows with other artists. For one thing I could be with other artists I like, and for another, someone would show up to see various artists, if not just me!
My "Out of the Box" series, at the Museum of Greater Lafayette in a two-person exhibiton with sculptor Preston Jackson. Speaking is Purdue University's director of the Black Cultual Center Renee A. Townsend.
I didn't know I was in business like any company on the Fortune 500. I needed an advertising arm, too, articles in prestigious publications, placement of my product in certain forums, not just any gallery. I needed to apply for fellowships and grants, also prestige builders that would help my visibility and my sales. I thought I had coined the phrase "artist entrepreneur" but thanks to "Google, I discovered I am not the only one who has used the phrase for several years. I was not interested in the entrepreneur part, but maybe I should have been.
A colleague told me some years ago, flatly, with no exceptions, "solo shows are best!"
I had had solo exhibitions. Again, dumb luck! But I did not seek them, and I even turned some down!
Not sure how far away from naive, uninformed, ignorant or dumb I am, today, but I know what I missed and maybe even why.
When I graduated from Yale I moved back to Philadelphia because I had to, not because I wanted to. I had interviewed for a job in NYC at a university and I had a job in New Haven, but my mother was hurt in a car accident. I went to Phila to help her as she regained her ability to walk and take care of herself. Then I found a job at the local TV station that was owned and operated by CBS. After my mother improved I moved to Chicago, with no art job and continued to work for CBS, and of course paint. I had developed a decent work ethic in undergrad as I tried to learn to paint and develop ideas and, yes, get into art exhibitions, so juggling work with painting was no problem.
I did receive a call to come to NYC to work but I was in love and decided to stay in Chicago. I was an idiot! I had a lousy boyfriend. And I blew off a really good chance to be in NYC. But I thought I could make art anywhere and did not realize I had to be in New York.
I thought I could be an artist anywhere! And I could, but not a well-known one. And making art was not enough. What I found out over time is I needed important connections. I have had them for years, but never thought of "using" people to further myself. I always thought that one works and eventually the work pays off in a meritorious society. But really it is who you know and who knows and likes you.
That sad truth was reinforced in the reading of "Seven Days in the Art World". I also see it when I look at artists like Geraldine McCullough. She was a wonderul sculptor but not as agressive with her self promotion (that's not a bad word) as say, Picasso was or Whistler.
I was always aware that there are many wonderful artists and I could only hope that someone would consider me in that number. (And, yes, I have been.) What I learned is..."good art" is not the same as "marketable art". One sad key to this is that as soon as artists die, there is often a run on their work. Anna M. Tyler would often tell me, "You know, Joyce, I don't sell much work". But when she died there happened to be an exhibition that I had curated including her monoprints. Everything sold. Her silent auction piece sold for more than anyone's - not usual.
There is something rotten in the world of art, but there seems to be nothing artists can do about it except play. For me, I make art because I can't stop myself. If you are an artist with other motives, you might try selling cars instead.