“...because the road is long and it is easy to go astray.”
I don’t remember where I read or heard that quote but it struck me as significant enough at the time that I both wrote it down and committed it to memory. I believe it was spoken by someone in the context of being an artist and the difficulty of staying on a directed path when there is much distraction and many influences ready to de-rail one’s progress.
It is an important idea to keep close when plotting one’s course as an artist. Setting goals and aligning oneself with them, means having a guide for when to say yes to an opportunity and, very importantly, when to say “thank you, but no.” Likewise, being too heavily weighted by or dependent on one way to show and sell ones work becomes a problem when the one way is no longer working.
The literal “road” for me was a career dominated by traveling around the country to juried art fairs. While this particular track included some stellar adventures and countless sold paintings, it also meant many weeks and weekends away from home and the studio. For a growing chunk of each year, I was going to a show, at a show or headed home from one, primarily to wash clothes and re-pack my vehicle for the next trip. This lacked balance. Well, let’s say, I lost my balance.
With unequal parts design, circumstance and necessity, I am currently testing out the idea that I am “retired” from art fairs. At the very least, I am on an extended hiatus. This does not mean that I have pivoted to spending long, languid days in the studio. Coming off the road is a challenging transition involving partnerships with galleries, the pursuit of commission projects, scheduling exhibitions for 2018 and being open to the novelty of extra work that pays up front, or at least by the end of the week.
An unforeseen bonus of staying where I live means being present in my arts community of which I am a proud member and advocate. I no longer have to send my regrets for weekend events. I can reciprocate the support I’ve received by attending the openings, talks and studios of peers here in Kansas City. This summer, as I begin my term as Board President of the Kansas City Artists Coalition, I can better imagine my role in encouraging others to participate in an organization that has benefitted so many artists, including me. Being here as opposed to everywhere else has a meaningful momentum of its own.
Have I missed being on the road this year? Not really. Do I miss my friends? YES! The one outdoor show I have scheduled in 2017 is the prized Plaza Art Fair. It is conveniently located just a few miles down the road from where I live and features many of my favorite artists and friends from the past decade. Seeing them only in passing at such a big show will, I hope, open up the possibility of being more intentional with our visits in the future. Why wait for an art fair to bring us to the same town when we could plan a meeting or trip somewhere that would deepen our friendships and our work?
In the meantime, I am headed to Nashville this week for a talk and opening at The Arts Company with artist Marilyn Artus. I am proud to be showing with Marilyn at this vibrant venue run by a passionate art crusader, Anne Brown. Anne’s staff produced a video of my recent visit to deliver work for the show as well as commissioned works for one of their largest clients. If I don’t see you in Nashville, I will look for you at the Plaza Art Fair and beyond. I am sticking to this long road, keeping it “between the ditches” as we show warriors would say, and endeavoring to stay in touch, always.