I have a student I’m tutoring to help her prepare her art school portfolio, and I mentioned Sarah Sze to them as an artist to look at in terms of composing seemingly unrelated objects together into fluid and dynamic compositions. Sze is an artist I’ve admired for many years and I’ve followed her career with great interest. Curious about Sze’s most recent work, I found myself looking at images of her work on Instagram.
I acknowledged a few years ago that in terms of the capital A art world, the ship had sailed for me. While there are a few artists who do find success in the art world much later in life, I think those artists are the exceptions. If you’re not in the Art world by the time you’re 35, the ship is gone, and it’s not coming back.
I spent a long time (way too long) grieving over the Art world career I pursued for so many years, but you can only do that for so long without going nuts. Starting Artprof.org helped me move on and try to find a new purpose and meaning as an artist.
When I think about how different my life is since starting Artprof.org, it’s really quite remarkable. Artprof.org let me to leave the bubble of academia and made my world so much bigger than I ever imagined. I’ve met so many people I would otherwise have never interacted with, I’ve traveled internationally, I have a consistent lecture schedule, collaborated with artists of all ages, received comments from my audience that make me tear up, and much, much more.
As much as there are visible, concrete results of Artprof.org that I am immensely proud of, there’s still an tiny itch that comes back to haunt me now and then.
That itch tells me that the reason I didn’t “make it” in the Art world is because as a fine artist, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t stick it out and try long enough, and that it’s my own fault because I gave up. I’ll be the first to admit how toxic this thinking is, and I really should know better after all these years to even go there. But it’s hard not to when I pick up that RISD alumni magazine, when an article shows up on social media and I read about my peers and colleagues who did make it into the Art world, who won MacArthur grants, who are tenured professors.
The vast majority of the time, I’m so immersed in Artprof.org that the itch might as well not exist. As a project, Artprof.org has grown to the point that it’s so much bigger than me, and it’s roller coaster ride that is thrilling, challenging, stimulating and exciting all the time. I’m grateful that I was in a place in my life where a project like that was possible, and I couldn’t be more proud of my team at Artprof.org for everything we have accomplished together over the past few years.
For all those reasons, it’s generally not difficult for me to ignore that itch, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less on the days that I can’t.