Friday, September 10, 2010

About Self Promotion

When I was a little girl, the consensus amongst my peers was that if you seemed to think highly of yourself, you were “conceited”. Not a good thing.

Today we are urged to bring our self-esteem to some sort of optimum level. Artists and others who depend on the general (or some segment thereof) public to fall under their spell, are required to “promote” themselves. If you have already achieved some sort of notoriety you might have the great good fortune of having a professional shouting your name. Otherwise you put aside the constraints of decorum and look for ways to be more appealing and to capture attention. Some of us go to interesting lengths to make our mark. Legend has it that Julian Schnabel mailed a sandwich enclosing slides of his work when he applied to the Whitney Museum’s independent study program. It worked. Brilliant move on the part of somebody who knows a thing or two about advertising.

But for most of us there is a struggle between who we are, which is often shy and happy to lurk in the shadows, and the need to invent some more attractive “persona”. Whatever that means. At the reception for my first solo show in 1979, I was told by the gallery director not to speak of my work as I did. I don’t recall what I said except that it was something about how I made the work and it was the truth. I had moved into a world where I was going to have to censor myself. Or look for another gallery in search of more freedom of speech.

Many years later we put ourselves on Facebook, send out Tweets, Link to those who might help us form a network of business connections. There are more ways than ever to solicit notice. But singing one’s own praises has not gotten easier.

The image above is Forfeit, ©2001 Acrylic on Paper Adhered to Canvas, 7.5 x 25.5". For information or to purchase any of the images on this site, please email Joan.


  1. I wonder if this is a more difficult thing for women, who traditionally have been raised to be good quiet little girls who shouldn't seek too much attention for themselves. Perhaps less of a problem in the younger generation raised with the self-esteem movement? Regardless, it is difficult to sell oneself, especially for us solitude-loving creative types.

  2. Hmmmm. I had never thought about that. But I have known several male artists who didn't market themselves or their work at all. They preferred to remain in the shadows. Of course if you need to sell your work, hiding out in the studio is not an option.

  3. This is a beautiful page Joan.
    I like the way you are using this medium -
    blogging. I love being able to connect
    with you this way. It's always a pleasure
    to read what you write. Thanks for you.

  4. I too, love this medium. Big surprise. I thought it would be an onerous task to have to write on a regular basis. Not so. The words pour out. And to think that in grade school I was chastised and got a poor evaluation in "self-control" because I wouldn't shut up. How unfair.