April 4, 2013

The lives of artists

In addition to many other projects, artist Sharon Louden spent the last two years editing Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists, published (and peer reviewed) by Intellect Books and distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

A labor of love for Louden, the book doesn't offer advice or how-to-succeed-in-the-artworld tips, but rather considers how older artists (including myself) have managed to organize our
lives in ways that allow us to maintain our art practices despite the endless challenges. Let's face it: the majority of BFA students, realizing that the artworld is fickle and that commercial success is elusive,  will quit making art by the time they turn thirty to do something more practical--like go to law school or get an MBA. But then there's the rest of us, our numbers dwindling each year. For anyone teaching a professional practices course or an MFA seminar, this book should be required reading. Louden writes that as
art has become more and more of a commodity, many students graduating from art school believe that they will immediately make a living as an artist by obtaining gallery representation. One of the goals of this book is to dispel the belief that there is only one way to chart a path into a creative and sustainable life as an artist. This collection of essays is intended to show the reality of how artists -- from the unknown to the established -- juggle their creative lives with the everyday needs of making a living. They share with us in their own words how they are creative inside and outside the studio, both on a day-to-day basis and over the long haul.
Including a forward by Carter Foster, curator of drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a conclusion by Ed Winkleman, of Winkleman Gallery, and Bill Carroll, Director of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program, Living and Sustaining a Creative Life features essays by Julie Blackmon, Sharon Butler, Amanda Church, Maureen Connor, Will Cotton, Blane de St. Croix, Jennifer Dalton, Karin Davie, Jay Davis, Peter Drake, Carson Fox, Michelle Grabner, The Art Guys, Erik Hanson, Ellen Harvey, Julie Heffernan, Laurie Hogin, David Humphrey, Tony Ingrisano, Thomas Kilpper, Richard Klein, Julie Langsam, Annette Lawrence, Beth Lipman, Jenny Marketou, Sean Mellyn, Maggie Michael, Peter Newman, Tim Nolan, Brian Novatny, Adrienne Outlaw, Amy Pleasant, Melissa Potter, Justin Quinn, Kate Shepherd, Dan Steinhilber, George Stoll, Austin Thomas, Brian Tolle, and Michael Waugh.

Louden is in the process of organizing booksignings and events, so if you would like to schedule one for your school or organization, contact: Amy Damutz, North American Representative, Intellect Books, amy@intellectbooks.com.

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists, Edited by Sharon Louden. Published by Intellect Books, Distributed by University of Chicago Press.

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3 comments:

I'm thrilled that Sharon Butler has mentioned this important book! Just one clarification, though: the artists that have participated in this book range in age from 28-66 and all of them are at different levels of their careers. The youngest artist graduated from Pratt Institute with a MFA just three years ago. They are also from different places: 19 out of 40 are from New York, but the rest are from various places in the US and Europe. The essays are inspirational, informative and revealing. I believe everyone will benefit from reading their stories (I certainly have already!).

Congrats to both Sharons! To the point though about young BFAs giving up art because they don't achieve commercial success early on, I've generally found that those of us with an inner imperative to make art continue to do so no matter what the external circumstances. I would argue that the imperative to create is the necessary element, not the imperative to sell. It might be cliche to mention them, but certainly we can still look to artists such as Louise Bourgeois, van Gogh, Miro during World War II, all of whom continued to make art without art world recognition or under extremely difficult circumstances. And then there is Morandi, who actually chose to exhibit very infrequently.

Congratulations to both Sharons! To the point though about young BFAs leaving art because they may not achieve commercial success within a certain timeframe, I've generally found that those of us with an inner imperative (emphasis on that word imperative) to make art continue to do so even when external rewards do not come or outside circumstances are difficult. I would posit that the inner imperative to create is the essential element, not the imperative to sell. Without resorting to cliche, there certainly are models in the lives of artists such as Louise Bourgeois, van Gogh, Miro during World War II, all of whom continued their practice either without recognition or under extremely difficult circumstances. And then there is also Morandi, who actually chose to exhibit only infrequently, despite his obviously serious commitment to his work.

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