Friday, October 15, 2010

About the Ivory Tower

A recent email brought this query: I am interested in your opinion on selling art commercially. That is such a touchy subject for me because I was always led to believe that marketing your work and promoting yourself in any kind of a commercial way was not "really how it was supposed to happen".

Why not? What begets this sort of thinking? Is art-making not an honest trade? Painting, writing, composing not honest work? Is the artist so above ordinary mortals that she has none of the basic human needs? Not the artists I know. Most have healthy appetites, like to be warm in winter and usually even want to own some kind of vehicle. Are these needs filled by some manna streaming down from the heavens? Somebody on a yacht in the Mediterranean who sends this note: “Paint; be happy”? (My personal fantasy.)

The Ivory Tower does not come replete with bed and board or money for the purchase of materials. Franz Schubert couldn’t afford a piano. Vincent Van Gogh needed his supportive brother. I replied to my friend: “not selling art is wholly unrealistic. Certain luminaries of the arts, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven, Mozart, amongst many, many others, sold their work and supported themselves that way”. They exchanged their work for the cold, hard cash that would enable them to go on doing what they did. If I put myself in their shoes (maybe have to stretch a bit), I know the issue is about how continue with the work one wants to do. Besides, if you are a visual artist, you might find yourself with a storage problem. Your friends and relatives might refuse to take any more of your gifts. Now wouldn’t that be disheartening? Let’s not forget the validation inherent in a total stranger whipping out his checkbook to buy a very personal vision, one that you were not comfortable exhibiting. It hurts to be ignored. It does not hurt to get paid for one’s efforts.

Well, I guess I have said what I think. Thanks for reading.

The image above is from a series created in 2002 called “Birthdays”. Mixed Media/Digital Image Collage on Tyvek, 8.25" x 33”. For information or to purchase any of the images on this site, please email Joan.


  1. How to support the obsession is seems to be an ongoing issue for most of us. I wouldn't want anyone to think it's a bed of roses. No complaints, however. I know what a good life it is.
    Thank you for the feedback.