One of the goals of my art practice is to discuss the realities about being an artist and to dispel myths. One of the biggest ones that I encounter and one of the ones that I find the most frustrating is when people question why I'm not a a full-time artist (i.e., why I am not making a living as an artist). As if it were that easy.
For those few who are able to make a living off of their work are truly blessed but that isn't true for most artists, as this article written in 2017 points out. Even though it is from 2017, not much has changed in two years.
I have a bread and butter job because I need to pay bills, keep a roof over my head and eat. I often invest my own money in my projects. I've been told that I shouldn't tell people that I have a day job because galleries or other art world entities would look down on me for devoting all of my time to making art. I think this is ridiculous when we live in a country that doesn't support or advocate for artists or we live in a culture where people mock the importance of what we do. While I would love to exclusively create for a living, it's not possible. How I can be creative when I have to worry about surviving? This is a reality for so many artists and I think it's silly to dismiss those who work and still come after their day job to create. That's dedication.
Please keep this in mind the next time you are skeptical at how much an artist charges for their work, their prints, and their labor. Please keep this in mind when supporting women artists, especially Black women artists who have it the toughest out of anyone when it comes to recognition and support for their work.
I am grateful for the support that I get from other artists and patrons who support by purchasing prints or donating to my Patreon/Ko-fi accounts. I am thankful to have people who cheer me on and share what I do with others so that they know about what I do. It means more than you could ever know.
This past week marked a lot of firsts for me in my art career that have been some of the most gratifying moments of my life.
On Tuesday, the National Black Theatre presented their production In Perpetual Flight: The Black Body in Motion at the Schomburg Center. Their event was part of the New York City wide festival theme on migration which was developed by Carnegie Hall. NBT had commissioned me to create artworks that marked the four critical stages of Black migration within the United States: The Transatlantic and Domestic Slave Trade & Runaway Journeys, The First Northerm MIgration, Back to Africa: Colonization and Emigration and The Great Migration: Redefining Cities. Each era was celebrated through dance, spoken word and song with the works I created serving as an introductory backdrop for each performance. It felt incredible to be part of something that was bigger than myself and that celebrated the migratory experiences of Black people in such a powerful way.
After the program ended, I was invited onstage to join in the panel discussion that featured all the commissioned artists for the production. This was the first time in a very long while since I’ve been on a stage for a live show so leading up to it, I was kind of nervous but once I got out there, it felt good. The energy of the audience was so positive (replete with finger-snaps and affirming “mmm-hmmms”), and the camaraderie among my fellow artists was so strong, that it felt like I was having a conversation with people I had known for a long time.
You can watch the livestream entire program here.
Then the next day I traveled to Newark to hold my artist talk for my exhibition Fluid Resistance: Heroism in Two Acts. The best part of the talk was getting a chance to answer questions and explain my process to the students in an introductory photography class. For many of them, it was the first time they had gone to an artist talk so it was refreshing to see my presentation and the art world through new eyes. After answering questions about my process, inspiration and my thoughts on current social issues, we all walked over to the exhibition to view the works in person. One of the greatest parts of this experience with Rutgers was getting to see how committed Paul Robeson Galleries to the grassroots art community, which is a refreshing change from New York’s art scene, which at times can be too elitist and competitive. In addition to hosting exhibitions and artist talks, they also run workshops and classes so I’m hoping to work with them in the future about possible workshops regarding legal issues for artists.
So that was my week! It feels so good to see flowers blooming where I’ve been planting seeds for all the years. It gives a whole new meaning to the rebirth of spring.