JB: When I first started lecturing there was no Internet. I think that [change] is huge. More than ever before in history, artists can connect with potential audiences. Also, the art world has expanded in that artists are engaged in more media work, video installations, combining media, erasing the boundaries between disciplines. It's all melded.
JM: Yes, but recently the art world has shrunk financially
JB: That has affected artists, but artists are pretty accustomed to living on margins. Not to underestimate how difficult it is to lose part-time job opportunities or a support network, but I'm hoping artists will use this time do the kind of planning they need to do to get through the future ups and downs. My book is about making a living in any economy.
JB: Hopefully every chapter of my book pops one myth after the other. For instance, the idea of supporting yourself only from sales of your work is a myth. Even very successful artists diversify their income, turning it into real estate or investments. Artists with successful gallery careers are teaching or doing freelance work.
JM: You talk a lot about 'multiple income streams.' There's a great little drawing in your book showing a woman on a platform supported by many poles: art sales, teaching, investments, residencies, grants, bartering, freelance.
JB: Multiple income streams ease out the big ups and downs. Very few artists are comfortable with a 24/7 studio practice. It’s very isolating. They have other talents and needs. Turn those into a source of income.
JM: For example?
JB: For example, I love working with other artists, so lecturing on career issues satisfies part of my personality, fulfills part of my income stream and it gives back. My tax preparator is an artist who loves numbers, my yoga teacher is an artist, and many of my friends have turned different skill sets into part-time work.
JM: You also talk about generosity.
JB: You can give advice and time, and it may not come directly back from that person, but the generosity of spirit comes back. If you know of an opportunity and you don't share the information with others, don't think you'll be the only person who applies. If we model ourselves on generosity, others are more likely to be generous too.
JM: What was your biggest surprise researching the book?
JB: How difficult it was to turn the information I had been teaching for so many years into a readable text. It's one thing to give a talk and make up a one-page handout, quite another to turn it into a whole chapter in a book.
JM: What advice would you offer to artists?
JB: Artists often see No where there is no No. I noticed this when I was running the Rotunda Gallery [in Brooklyn]. An artist would approach me during an opening or on the street and ask me to come up and see their work. I'd say, 'Call me next week and we'll try to set something up,' and nine times out of ten they never followed up. I was pretty shocked at how often artists didn't follow up.
JM: Speaking of No, you've got a great line in the book: "If I'm not being regularly rejected, it means I'm not pursuing opportunities." Would you talk a bit more about rejection?
JB: Rejection isn’t personal. It’s not an indictment of your work. Just because someone likes and respects your work doesn’t mean they want to represent it or curate it into a show. There are a lot of other reasons why the work might not be selected. I don’t mean to say that rejection is not painful, but you have to keep at it. One Yes wipes out a hundred Nos.
Want to read more one on one? Amber Hawk Swanson interviews Jackie for the latest issue of the NYFA Current.