Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recontextualisation: Part 3

Being an artist means sometimes doing what seems most frightening. Normally, the days go by in a pleasant kind of tedium, a feeling that work is getting done. After so many years of refining a process, there’s little to sort out beyond the logistics of how one tackles the next area to be painted. The mind often fixates on other less immediate things like ‘Why is my ankle sore?’ and ‘What the hell is up with my art career?’ The latter question usually precedes a sickly feeling in the stomach and an effort to get back to wondering about the ankle.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career. Beyond changing the way the paintings are presented in their frames or the desire to call myself something other than ‘photorealist’, I’ve felt a growing urge to find a new audience for my work. It’s either a hazard of my psyche or my trade but the days spent painting while simultaneously deconstructing every decision I’ve ever made sometimes results in finding a question that needs to be answered: “Can I place my work in the larger context of contemporary art and escape the confining clutches of ‘photorealism’?”

Managing one’s art career isn’t something people talk about. I certainly don’t think it’s something anyone teaches, only the individual artist can visualise the path forward. For me, the persistent itch of dissatisfaction for my lot is what drives most of my career decisions. The ‘itch’ is something I feel is crucial to the development of one’s art, never mind one’s career. Complacency and satisfaction toll the death knell for originality.

With this in mind, I made a bold move and in my ever-expanding search for a new context, I ended my six year relationship with O.K. Harris in SoHo and found a new starting point as the only photo-based painter at Jim Kempner Fine Art in Chelsea. The change came quickly when I finally puzzled out what change was needed. Like a tectonic plate, I can sometimes shock myself and those around me by making an unexpected move.

If we’re lucky and if we’re open to it, life can take us to unexpected places. Two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined leaving the security of O.K. Harris. As I walked out of Kempner, having dropped off three paintings to meet their fate in Chelsea, I felt like I had just jumped off a cliff. I’d set in motion something whose outcome was unclear to me. I walked to the end of 23rd street and composed myself on a bench in the park at Chelsea Piers, assuring myself that I’d done the right thing.

Whether or not my work finds its audience at Jim Kempner, I feel now that the important thing, as an artist, was jumping off the cliff.