Friday, July 24, 2009

No Talk Of Good Old Days

Ten years ago, one of my lecturers at art school told me, in no uncertain terms, that I'd never make a living as an artist. He wrote to me just recently – seeking my advice on how to make a living from art.
I didn't respond. He might well have forgotten the discouraging, depressing impact of his words but I haven't. Then again, a lot of people from my past have chosen to 'redact' their history with me since I became one of art's nano-celebrities. Strangers come up to me at shows or email my studio to remind me of some tenuous connection with them through people whose names I only half recognise. Old boyfriends whine to members of my family that I don't stay in touch or that I owe them some obscure emotional debt. A handful of art dealers, including some who have never represented my work, claim responsibility for my current success (none of them had anything to do with it).
I've drawn a line somewhere around 2005 as the cut-off. That was the year I packed up my few possessions at my father's house in Melbourne, where I'd been living, threw them into the back of a rented station wagon and drove to Sydney intent on re-starting my life and my badly stalled career. My relationships since then, both personal and professional, have been chosen (and maintained) with much more care than any I had before.
Even better – and maybe for the first time in my life – that care has been returned.

11 comments:

Walt Pascoe said...

Your candidness is refreshing,Hazel. It brings a sorely needed modicum of honesty and clarity to the turgid waters of art world discourse. It's not that often that an artist who has achieved a significant amount of recognition has the courage to keep speaking truth to power; and/or truth to wankers of all stripes.I heard the same tired refrain in school re making a living doing what I love. And I'm damn glad there were other voices back then, similar to yours right now, who spoke of possibilities rather impossibilities.

Rachel True said...

while i don't have your art fame, as a working actor in states i relate so very much- from the high school teacher telling me to try for a 2 yr school instead if the sky, despite my very high scores... here they are called frenemies at the moment...
had a 'friend' say, well i guess since your telly show is over i don't have to be nice anymore... when i never craved more than loyal friendship. people who didn't have my back then, and want in or out now depending on 'my status'... are banal.
now aren't you glad twitter's limited to 140 k...
i see your journey as that of the most human & very prevalent amoung artists... 'we hate it when our friends become successful' thing,
yet there they drawn to the light, albeit enviously, of your gifts...

Anonymous said...

I like watching you ride the crest of that wave of nano-celebrity, or just simple success.

My own wave crashed and burned a little while ago, and now my life is somehow finding "enough" from what was left of my small successes in haystacks of mediocre stuff and the occasional pile of poo.

Lately it's involved writing job applications to people who were associated with some of my small successes only to find they no longer remember me.

But still, I have no wish to pull you down. Watching you up there is an inspiration, and I'll take my small vicarious fix of that, if I may.

Bobby Shen said...

I was pretty surprised about the whiny boyfriends! No way...

I'm still young so I've never come across such stuff as people from my past haunting the present day, but it's pretty shocking how fame can cause an emotional backwash.

Try to enjoy your nano-celebrity status though! You deserve it and probably much more, whatever that may be.

maria brophy said...

Hazel, it's so funny how people love to tell artists that they "can't make a living being an artist"! It's such bull. My husband, a very accomplished artist, remembers his guidance counselor in high school telling him "Drew, you can't just surf and paint your whole life." And that's just what he's done, his whole life.

But, don't hold it against these "well meaning" smart people with stupid advice! They have no idea what your potential is.

It's too bad, that short-sighted people lay their short-sights on others.

As Hugh McLeod put it, "IGNORE EVERYONE"!

Amélie said...

You showed them. I'm really happy you did! i really am. all the way'

andrea said...

Good post. I wish I'd had the chutzpah to ignore people who told me I'd never make a living as an artist, but when I was in art school I didn't have your ability to cut through the bullshit. It means recognising when people have your best interests in heart or their own. I'm still learning.

Steve gray said...

Its not about wanting to be up there with you, just shoulder to shoulder as artists. Inspired, pushing boundries making some comment and or sense of the world we are part of.

It's hard to stave off the goal crushers but easier if you have peers. Continue... :)

Nick Taylor said...

Yea, well... meet the people you'll meet again on the way down.

miaoatley said...

I remember very clearly that the welcoming speech to the National art School was prefecafed with one of the teachers telling us that only 3 percent of us would ever make it out there as artists, a fact that he stated with glee, perhaps because it made him feel better about his own failure.
In my final year another lecturer's favourite comment was was that we could take our learnt creativity from art school and use it in cooking or whatever, and that it would never be wasted. I very clearly told him one day that I was a painter and I was always going to be and could we deal with task at hand and stop wasting my time by making me listen to such trite. I haven't heard of any dealer's attributing anything I've done to them, but I have heard it numerous other times about other times about other times about other artists from dealers. I taught them this style, I told them to lighten up their palette now they are selling out shows. It's laughable really.
I never believed the teachers or what I overheard from dealers. The onis is on the artist, and just how prepared you are to work hard and rise above all of this.

Bickie said...

I realise that this is an old, old blog post, but it reminded me of one of my first teachers who told me that I was the laziest artist that he'd ever met. I saw him at a group show a couple of years ago and reminded him, because I'm a bitch like that I guess. He said he was trying to motivate me... thanks Peter (who had an affair with one of my fellow students).