Saturday, November 27, 2010

art and the audience

This morning as I am getting psyched for work after too much "Moonlight Madness" the night before-- (No,  No it is not what it sounds like--it's just a marketing event in Shelburne Falls)--anyhow I saw an article on Twitter--marketing research and the artist. Of course I had to read it--after all I really do not enjoy being open late even if I don't stay until the bitter end so if I could sell more...

Alas the main point of the article is that artists need to learn what "the public" wants to know about the art. Now I am sure that there are lots of artists who would benefit by getting the opinion of "the public"--learning the language and questions of "the public." Indeed I know some whose work is just not selling--hmm, not my place to offer suggestions.  But I have just sat through Moonlight Madness for the umpteenth time--my studio is open to "the public".  How many craft shows have I done? I know more or less what "the public" thinks about my work. Even though that also changes. 

And the methodology of the article seemed awfully complex to me--holding a party... I am not sure that I even agree that artists have different opinions than non-artists. Am I missing something there. But I do think the basic premise is more interesting than the article. Let me explain.

I will be the very first to admit that I find it important to ascertain that I am communicating with my work. I remember the first time I showed up at a major craft show--all the other artists advised me that this would be a graduate level course in art appreciation if I could just listen to potential audience. After being told far too often that their seams were straighter than mine, I decided I would not rely on straight seams. How to hang the work? How to care for it? I learn the questions I want to answer--the discussions that take them away from the work.

Where does the quilt work in their house? What colors do customers want to live with? I remember that I can always make a new piece for the studio but they are going to be living with it for years. It is a humbling thought.

How do I remain true to what I want to make while also selling the work so that I can make more?
What is the role of the artist in the world we live in. Anne Truitt speaks of when art coincides with contemporary artistic concerns so there is a historical cogency--a relevance of the personal struggles of the artist with current trends. She speaks of the need to be true and sensitive to oneself rather than succumbing to the will of the public. What a balancing act.

Listening to Khrista Tippets On Being radio show I hear John O'Donohue--an Irish poet--discuss art and beauty. I learn that the word  beauty has the same Greek root as the word calling.  Did you know that? Beauty can be the calling forth of the universal--get it?  Joining the visible and the invisible worlds. The landscape of the inner world. Recalling you to the rhythm of the universe. A discussion using large broad words but creating a feeling for what art and beauty is.

I remember years ago when I took lots of poetry workshops. The leader of the group--a very kind and wise woman--would gently tell me when the poems were "too personal." What I felt so intensely and what I explained so that I clearly understoodt was a puzzle to my intended readers. 

At the shows I see lots of work that is--shall I say "trendy".  Lots of work that fits whatever is hot in the market. Sometimes  during quiet times at the studio I try to make work like this--solid colors, simple designs. There is a look that is hot but it is not me. I miss the commercial prints--the act of taking ordinary fabrics and creating wonderful surprising colors. I love that jumble and intensity of the fabrics and know that it is what I must do.  My seemingly simple but also complex landscapes inviting the viewer into my world.

So I seek other ways of listening to my audience. Can I explain it better? Perhaps another color? Another size? Am I hunting for the wrong audience? I keep asking these questions. A juggling act between what the audience wants and what I want to make. And how do you answer these questions? What is the roll of the public and the contemporary art scene? How do you balance it?


  1. Hi Anne,
    Oh I'm going through the same questions! Quilter's blogland really has ONE hot style with only a few hot fabric lines. And I just cannot cookie cutter myself like that! Though I think they are all astounding and eyecatching... Sorry, no answers here. Just more questions.

  2. Thanks so much. It is so nice to know that I am not alone--in the end I feel that that is what blogging is all about. And I do love the questions also.

  3. This is quite a tightrope you are walking here with this post. So many things to balance, sales, trends, it's so easy to lose yourself when thinking about these topics. I have been struggling with the commercial fabric vs. hand dyed/printed fabric for the last couple of years, because I enjoy both. I have finally decided to just keep combining both, picking and choosing what feels right for the particular project. It can be hard to hold onto that resolve while cruising blogland, though....

  4. I think the artist has to be true to themselves. There are collectors for every style of art out there. Your work is fabulous!

  5. variety is the spice of life..... there is no right or wrong in the world of art. My third grade art teacher told me so. And I still believe her. I do understand the need to find buyers for what we love to create. It is amazing that people could ever sell their works of art prior to the internet. Thankgoodness for web sites and blogs! It makes finding a market much easier don't you think!