Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Secret Of My Success

The day after my very first exhibition at a commercial art gallery, which had sold out, the gallery's director told me, ""Whatever you do, don't change your style."
It wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear.
She went on to tell me about other artists who had become financially successful this way. I recognised the names – and hated their works. They were repetitive, formulaic, and worst of all, stupid. The only reason the gallerist liked them was because they were easier to sell. The repetition had no conceptual reason. In every case, it was just about easy money.
I became an artist because I wanted to explore more deeply the emotional and psychological terrains that intrigued and obsessed me. I never considered making the same thing over and over, with small variations, just for the money – unless, of course, it was part of exploring an idea. Without an underlying concept, the work became meaningless, insulting and exploitative.
And yet for many major artists, the central problem of success remains breaking free of the commercial and popular pressure to do the same sort of works over and over. It affects so many of us, from Australia's painter of outback desolation and burning rope', Tim Storrier, to Vanessa Beecroft, Damien Hirst, and yeah, me.
I think I'm still young, hungry and reckless enough to rid myself of this burden and ignore everybody's expectations. I have done it before and it has paid off. But it has always been touch-and-go.
I just figure I have nothing to lose.
Besides, risk makes my heart beat faster. It turns me on sexually and it engages my mind, even when it frightens the shit out of me. In every instance, I never hesitate to put everything on the line.
Artists only lose when they play it safe. Jeff Koons'
Rabbit is just another floating balloon in a Macy's Parade. Vanessa Beecroft's early installations of naked women have been turned into a branded retail display for Louis Vuitton. Damien Hirst's endless versions of animals in formaldehyde make the stronger works in the series weaker. His most powerful works, such as A Thousand Years, are further undermined with each new pickled carcass, fast-money dot and swirl painting, or high profile diamond-encrusted skull stunt.
I always knew that repeating the same works over and over was a trap. One of the reason's I did all my
Dangerous Career Babes as dress-up Barbie dolls stuck in the same action pose, was to rip the whole idea of repetition to shreds. So this is not a problem I am confronting with any nervousness.
No, my biggest problem is the one I thought I'd never have – embracing my own success.
I fought so hard, and for so long, to have a measures of critical acclaim, celebrity and wealth and yet I never really imagined it would be even a fraction of what has come my way in the last few years.
I'm used to scuffling, scratching, and hustling for any scrap of attention and to make enough money to get me through the next canvas. So it has been unexpectedly confronting to be on the receiving end of so much opportunity, praise, acceptance, and yeah, money. I know I wanted those things – badly – but I still don't know how to handle them with grace, appreciation and satisfaction. They make me uneasy, make me feel like something must be wrong because I feel so damn good. Sometimes, it gets so bad, it drives me crazy and I try to pull it all apart.
It's going to take some time for me to be able to accept my increasing success, let alone enjoy it. It going to take even longer for me to feel like I deserve it.

8 comments:

TinaSL-artist said...

I totally get this.

Paul said...

When I realized things don't just "happen" they are caused. And later when I realized I cause my life, I saw that all I get I deserve. It was accepting that I cause what I get, ALL of it, then I could know I deserved it.

mondotrasho said...

...if I may contradict, things do "just happen" all the time. Francis Bacon credited "luck" as the primary reason he had an "art career" at all. Mind you he solved the whole "too much money" issue by indulging in constant gambling. We can control our destinies only so much with work ethic and skill -- fate will always be the wild card. I would suggest Hazel give thanks before every meal, indulge in a good accountant and investment adviser if she hasn't already. It may seem like a lot of money to a once hungry artist but in the context of a professional at the top of their game it's normal. Just don't guilt yourself into spending your way back to the poorhouse and you'll be fine. Treat yourself like an employee on salary rather than acting like a Wall Street CEO who's robbing the company coffers when times are good. I don't think top surgeons feel guilt for commanding top fees in their work why should she.

Anonymous said...

Umm, one point tho': the surgeon mondotrasho refers to is likely to be at the top of his game. Dooney's just hit 30 and nowhere near the apex of her career. Plenty of time to figure shit out as she goes along. And she will.

Anonymous said...

You deserve it.

Amanda said...

Inspiring words. I feel much better now about those art critics!

animadi said...

"I always knew that repeating the same works over and over was a trap. One of the reason's I did all my Dangerous Career Babes as dress-up Barbie dolls stuck in the same action pose, was to rip the whole idea of repetition to shreds. So this is not a problem I am confronting with any nervousness.

No, my biggest problem is the one I thought I'd never have – embracing my own success."

I love this! Success can be a very scary thing, especially as an artist! It is really awesome that you are exploring your feelings head on!

Reading posts like this just make me that much more devoted to you as an artist and your work.

Anonymous said...

Friend of mine finally found success in one subject. He rode that mule to death. Every painting along the same theme that sold so well. Then the economy got really bad. He went bankrupt and ended his life earlier this year. Hazel your stuff is rocking hot. You are not painting the same damn tree or hill over and over. Keep doing what you are doing and manage your income wisely. Wish you would do a series on Talented Babes, artist, musicians, singers, strippers, etc. You go girl and Best to you!