Marketing Mondays: Do It yourself

Laura Moriarty in her Hudson Valley studio.
"I'm giving myself a two-week residency in my own studio beginning today.”

That was the sculptor Laura Moriarty announcing her intention via Facebook several weeks ago. Moriarty’s residency is now over, but I love the idea that in her busy life as an artist, gallery director and teacher, she decided to carve out a block of time with no other distractions. It helps that Moriarty has been the recipient of many residencies, so she knows how they work—and thus how to take advantage of the intense focus. I love the idea that she defined her studio time as a residency.

Reading about Moriarty’s self-gifted residency brought to the fore—yet again—the idea that one of the great things about being an artist right now is that we are able to direct our careers  ourselves, rather than waiting for the big break, the big grant or the unlikely miracle. There are many ways to take the DIY approach.  

Want a solo show but there’s no gallery offering you one?
Do it yourself. Gwyneth Leech had a great idea for a show, secured a display window in the Garment District, and installed it. I wrote about it here. For some artists an exhibition such a Leech's would be, in and of itself, a great DIY project but that’s not the end of this story. She invited the Cheryl McGinnis Gallery in Chelsea to co-sponsor the project.  It was so successful that she’s

now represented by the gallery, and together McGinnis and Leech secured yet another space for Leech’s particularly fabulous brand of exhibition with the artist in attendance for some part of just about every day.

Above: Leech's Hypergraphia in the Garment District in  2011.
Right: Hypergraphia in the prow of the iconic Flatiron Building. Read more in Leech's blog,
Gwyneth's Full Brew
Want to curate a show?
There are art centers that would love to have you present a proposal. A busy curator who’s smart enough to respond to a well-thought-out proposal will buy herself some time for the rest of the year’s programming because you have already done a good deal of the work. That’s what Gregory Wright did with his exhibition, Pollination, at the Brush Gallery in Lowell, Mass., recently. He got funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, too, which allowed him to do a catalog of the show. And the show is about to travel, in slightly altered form, to Provincetown, Massachusetts in June. If you can build some perks for yourself, such as  curatorial or travel fees, or if the gallery can do that for you, so much the better.

Above: Installation view of Pollination at the Brush Gallery, Lowell, Mass., with  work by Toby Sisson, foreground; below: the grant-funded catalog
Both photos: Nancy Natale

Don’t have a bricks-and-mortar venue? Curate online
I'm surprised more artists haven't done this. Structural Madness, a “New York virtual gallery” founded and run by Gloria Klein—who has curated many physical exhibitions for Gallery 128 on the Lower East Side—is one such venue (and guess whose work is featured this month?)
I’ve also curated “exhibitions” here on my own blog. To be honest, I don’t see them as exhibitions so much as curated blog posts, but the point is that they’re an opportunity to bring together work by various artists in a way that creates a visual narrative.  See Spring Greens and Rhomboid Rumba. I loved doing those! The World Wide Web, which I pulled together from what I saw at the recent Miami art fairs, is another such curated post, along with Black is the New Black. Again. The bonus here: While I get to exercise my curatorial muscles, I’m spared the administrative and physical process of planning and installing the show. 
Julie Karabenick has a splendid curatorial project on line, Geoform, which takes an international look at abstract geometric art. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth mentioning again, as Karabenick is adding new artists and interviews regularly.

Or curate in print
That's what Sharon Butler did. The painter and editor of the blog Two Coats of Paint has been publishing limited-edition books on various topics. A recent one, Against the Tide, looks at the work of artists who have reference water in their work (disclaimer: I'm one of them). It's a catalog of a show that exists only in the catalog. In our media-sophisticated existence, an exhibition in print makes perfect sense.

.Start a Gallery
Zach Feuer started with an apartment in Boston while still an art student at the Museum School and now has a serious gallery in Chelsea.  Minus Space, started by artists Matthew Deleget and Rossana Martinez, began as a curated website and now has a physical gallery in Brooklyn. Chris Ashley has an appointment-only gallery, Some Walls, in his Oakland home. (I have previously written about Ashley's project here.) Ashley’s essays about artists on his blog, Look See, seem to have been the germinating point for the gallery shows, which are always accompanied by an Ashley essay.
Wish someone would write a monograph on your work?
Until Rizzoli comes calling, you have the power to create your own monograph using one of the various online publishers, such as Blurb or Lulu. 

Sharon Butler did just this with her Tower Paintings: Keeping Our Distance, left. Online publishing means that you create the book or catalog and then print only as many copies as needed. Yes, the per-copy cost may be higher than conventional book publishing, but considering that you don’t need to pay a designer (you can use one of many available templates), or a printer (it’s print on demand), and you don’t have to pay for a big print run, for shipping the copies to you, or for storing them, it turns out to be not such a bad deal. For most artists the point is not to go into business selling books, but to create a limited-edition monograph of your work. (You’d be wise to commission an essay. And if you can involve an institution or gallery where you’ll have an exhibition, or do so in conjunction with an exhibition, the project should be treated with the same respect as a conventional catalog.)
Give yourself an art fair
Long before the Armory Fair reincarned in 1994 on several floors of the Gramercy Hotel in New York City, likely igniting the current art fair

Binnie Birstein works on paper at the in-house Hotel Fair at the International Encaustic Conference, June 2011. Unframed works are easy to travel and set up
frenzy, small fashion businesses were renting hotel rooms to show their collections twice yearly to the fashion press. The flexibility of this format became clear to me when Debra Ramsay and Cora Jane Glasser, two artists participating in the encaustic painting conference I run, rented a suite and turned the living room into an after-hours art fair. It was a big hit, providing not only an opportunity to see their work but a place to hang out and talk about art. Sales were made, and Ramsay and Glasser’s salon became the model for the in-house Hotel Fair that takes place each year now.  It seems to me that any kind of conference could provide you with the opportunity to create a “hotel fair” to show your work. Show small work, or unframed work on paper, and you can take the show in your suitcase. (I'd love to see what artists at the CAA Conference do with this idea.)

Give yourself a residency
We end this post where we started: with the idea of a self-gifted residency. How did Moriarty's residency go? "It went great!" she says. "I experienced a breakthrough and completed a new 30 piece collection, worked out some new panoramic shelf pieces, and my work has taken a slight new turn during this period, which has energized my curiosity."

One result of Moriarty's residency: Flattop, 2012, encaustic (app 12 inches high)
Moriarty offers this advice for anyone considering a DIY residency: "Act as if you are going to be leaving town; get all of your appointments out of the way, pay the bills, clear your calendar, and pre-clean your studio." Two weeks, she adds, "worked perfectly for me."

Over to you: What have you done for yourself lately?
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Jane Housham said...

Terrific post, thank you!

Michelle Arnold Paine said...

I've been giving myself a mini-residency the last few weeks -- I hadn't called it that, but I was just thinking about residencies recently and said to myself - well, that's what I'm doing right now!! Experimenting on some new projects has been first priority in the studio.

KRCampbellArt said...

This is such a timely post. I have been doing some re-evaluating lately and had decided to just take some time and work and not worry about the marketing, gulp! Then stage some exhibits on my own, maybe inviting other artists and friends to exhibit with me. You have listed some great ideas here. Thank you! said...

This is a great post. Thank you Joanne. Excellent ideas.

J.T. Kirkland said...

The hotel room art fair is a great idea. Back in 2007 I was traveling to NYC for work and the client put me up in the Marriott Financial Center. I decided to have my own art fair ("All's Fair")and mounted about 25 pieces that I brought in suitcases and mounted with tiny nails. I invited the press and ended up with 3 great reviews and many great connections. I'm surprised more people don't do this. In fact, I need to do it again real soon!

One tip... be sure to refuse cleaning surface every day, or you'll have to re-mount the show every day.

Ravenna Taylor said...

very stimulating post, thanks

Gwyneth Leech said...

Thank you for the shout-out, Joanne!
My time in the Flatiron Prow Artspace in NYC has indeed been a residency, taking all my creative energy and attention. In the end it will have lasted five months. But I have been super productive in my window studio and my time there has led to many wonderful and unexpected things - more exhibition and work opportunities, as well as art sales through Cheryl McGinnis Gallery.

Sometimes an idea seems so right and so clear. That is the time to disregard all the rules and make things happen.


Glenn said...

Very inspiring post!!!

Bascha Mon said...

This is a terrific post, Joanne. Your energy constantly amazes me. there are times when I think that you must be at least 6 people - all of them doing fabulous work. thanks. bascha mon

Laura Moriarty said...

Thanks for including me in this post, Joanne. I hope it inspires others to find a way to give themselves the gift of time and space.

Christian Sarono said...

I’ve been looking for this topic for many days. As I read this post, it seems that this is better than I’d read before. It makes sense, thanks a lot that you share this post.

Catherine Nash: Desert Paper, Book and Wax said...

Thank you Joanne, for a inspiring and pertinent post. I truly believe in creating creative windows for myself...and others.

I've consistently acted on my ideas for enabling opportunities for growth and expression. Love how you've pulled it altogether here. I am inspired by hearing of how others open doors for themselves.

Thank you~

Tina Mammoser said...

LOVE this! Going to the US Atlantic coast for a residency has been on my "to do" list for a few years. In the autumn a collector of mine and online friend mentioned going over to New Jersey coast. When he said the apartment would be empty for a while because he'd have to come back and renew his visa I jumped at it. Ask for it, what's the worst that could happen? I offered him an exchange of an artwork for the space. So I got a sponsored accommodation + utilities (incl internet of course) for a month. All it cost me was my flight and food. And I had my own self-designed drawing residency!

If you can't find what you want, make it yourself.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thank you all for your kind words. It seems this post touched a nerve, as folks have been comenting on Facebook, too.

The real issue for all of us is that the things which might have once been looked down upon as "careerist"--basic things like getting our careers on track with residencies, exhibitions, catalogs and the like--are now perfectly respectable, respected even. Keep up the good work, everyone!

Tim McFarlane said...

Oh, man, this post is so timely for me. I was surfing the 'net Sunday night checking out residency options. I kept coming up against time constraints and monetary obligations over and over.

Even with those obstacles, I was still brain-storming well after I'd gotten into bed about how I could carve out a block of time for an intense focus on my work and I started putting together ways I could do it in my own studio! I'm blocking out two weeks in March to do my residency (dates to be determined). I'm working out plans now and am really psyched. Thanks for another great post, Joanne!

Stephanie Clayton said...

Terrific ideas, Joanne, thanks for this post.
A "DIY" approach to mini-residency is exactly what is needed to re-focus my creative energy. Now to determine the details...

Liz Brady said...

Thanks for all your posts Joanne!! I have learned so much from them. A group of 8 women and I have started our own gallery in Santa Barbara. We found a landlord that has given us a reduced rent and we in turn give 20% of all sales to Girls Inc (a local charity for girls). We split the rent, gallery time, and clean up 9 ways and it has turned out to be easy and affordable. We all still have time to do our art and other jobs that we might have. We all have our work up in a beautiful downtown location and sales have been steady. Anyone can do this with a group of friends and a little start up effort.

ska said...

I've done a bit of all of that for over 40 yrs and today, I find most of it too exhausting to reconsider. Nevertheless, I am finding new opportunities through the Encaustic Conference shows and contacts, so I am still trying to get in shows. My goals are smaller now as I prefer to spend time making art rather than many of the options available. But I am aware of them, thanks to experience and your posts, so the phoenix arises when the fire is hot enough and the amount of new work begs for visibility and feedback (and sales if possible.) So hope feeds energy and selective inquiries. Susanne

Douglas Witmer said...

I'm an advocate and practitioner of the personal studio residency. Also, Having done several residencies, while the change of scenery can be energizing and inspiring, the sheer setup/breakdown of the whole thing can be pretty time and energy consuming. Sometimes in my residency studios I felt frustrated/guilty because I actually wanted to be in my own studio, tricked-out to my taste and working methods. Also, if you have a family to think about, it's incredibly challenging to manage the logistics of leaving home for a residency. (Good luck finding programs that will accept bringing your family along...there are a few, actually, but from my experience the artworld is still biased towards the idea of the artist operating as a single individual).

Adria Arch said...

Yes! I just started the Arlington Windows Project in my hometown of Arlington, MA. I found a great unrented space in a prominent public location and I curate by finding interesting installation artists to show their work - I will show there, too, eventually! I love the idea that passersby will be able to see art from the street only, and it is not for sale. It's just there! Just got a little funding from the local cultural council, too. Who knows where this will go? I am excited.

Andrew Portwood said...

Wonderful Post!, wish that I had read it two weeks ago when it first came out!...very empowering for all of us on our own, so many good ideas and inspiring words to come back to read over again. When navigating the art world and its potential opportunities, it is very easy to be side-tracked by all of the clutter. The internet can be seductive and I sometimes get baited into making bad career choices. It is difficult to manage one's own art career without some sound guidance. Joan, you are helping us all see with clarity and take a higher road with our artist lives. Thanks!