What is the value of art? How do you measure success in your artist’s life? Do you gauge by the world’s response or your own? What is the measuring tool?
At the end of January I was asked to participate in an exhibition at the Assiniboia Gallery in one of Saskatchewan’s two main cities, featuring my artwork along with two other artists. The Assiniboia is a well-established commercial art gallery; it’s been a part of the visual arts scene in this province for over two decades. We’d started working together earlier this year.
That’s me above, beaming on opening night, April 24. Never in all my years has my name been on the outside of a building until now. Gallery staff hung and lit the paintings beautifully. Plenty of people came to the reception. There was dinner out with old friends afterward, and lots of laughter and stories.
Exhibition installation (photo Robert W Harwood)
Three days later I was asked to take down my post of the exhibition invitation from a local community Facebook page. Though I’ve made many contributions to the page in the past five years, this post was deemed too much like “personal businesses, such as multi-level marketing schemes selling everything from jewellery to weight-loss products.” Posts about Wings Night at my town’s only hotel “benefit the community as a whole.”
Then I was nominated for a national visual arts advocacy award. It’s a true honour to be thought of that way, no matter the outcome. The award has now been granted to someone else.
An interview was published about my artwork and the Assiniboia Gallery exhibition in one of our regional newspapers. A whole page, with photos. It was a bit alarming to see myself publicized so, and exciting at the same time. So far, two people have mentioned they noticed the story.
And so far, my artwork in the exhibition isn’t selling as well as I’d hoped. It’s some of the best art of my career.
So from this roller coaster of happiness and daunting I wonder, what is the value of art? Do we value its making? Its quality? Its financial reward? The opinions of our peers? The opinions of the communities we live in? How important is public attention or recognition? What value is highest? Who decides?
And what do we focus on? Do we decide that the ups are what counts, or the dejections? Is there a balance? Or does neither really matter? How do we know?
How do you measure success in your artist’s life?
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