I got an interesting comment recently. Well, maybe it was not so interesting as it was a little insulting. When I moved back to Omaha, I met an older woman (I’ll call her Kay) at one of my jobs. She’s an art enthusiast and supporter and is very free with giving her opinions. I did a series of wood cut prints of dresses that she was really into. As time moved on, I moved on from that body of work. I like to try different things knowing fully that not everything is going to work. I’ve been working on my latch hook pieces for about 1 1/2 years. One fall, I had one of them in an auction event. Granted, it was not one of the most successful ones in the bunch, but I thought it was good. A lot of people had a hard time seeing the image and I knew that was going to be a problem. From what I’ve seen, most people do not like art that is hard to recognize unless it’s abstraction. I got a bid on my work, but alas no sale. After the event, I ran into Kay. She told me she HATED my piece and that I should stick to dresses. No, please tell me what you really think.
This got me to thinking about the expectation placed on artists regarding “what you do”. When I first started making work, I often wondered why a lot of artists keep churning out the same thing over and over again. Maybe once you do one body of work that is successful because everyone loves it, artists just stay put. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Isn’t art about exploring territories and trying new ideas? I started thinking about the work of artists that I enjoy looking at and well; I tend to favor the work they produced at different points of their career. For example, I love the work Kiki Smith produced in the 80’s to early 90’s. Her figures were so visceral and interesting. Lots of body stuff. As of late, she’s been doing fairy tale imagery – lots of little girls, fawns, wolves…. It’s good, but not as powerful as the earlier work. I can appreciate it though, because she’s doing the work that she wants to and isn’t that what artists should do?