A number of months ago I went to a conference and exhibition at the World Bank called: “AFRICA NOW! Emerging talents from a continent on the move.” Although the conference and exhibition were impressive on many levels, I was really moved by two female African artists who in their slide shows emblazoned the tag of “Artist Entrepreneur” under their name. Apparently, in their culture, being an artist is the provenance of men and, as females, they were completely shunned and un-supported by the community. In a nutshell, these artists had to learn their craft on their own, manage their day-to-day survival, and also learn how to push their craft before the public and into the marketplace. Hence, they had to take on the dual role of artist and entrepreneur in a serious way.
Although I do not face their exact challenges, I face my own challenges that are large enough. After I saw how they proudly presented themselves as artist entrepreneurs, a strong sense of connection to that notion took over. Now, when asked the question about what I am working on, I answer unequivocally that I am working on owning and becoming comfortable with the notion of being an “Artist Entrepreneur” and all that that means.
What exactly has that meant for me? It has meant that I had to stop acting as if I were asleep at the wheel and start to awaken to the opportunities that were already coming my way. One is not an artist entrepreneur unless one gets his or her work out there. My sister does websites, and has been begging me for several years to create my website. I finally woke up to this opportunity when she recently offered to do my website as a birthday present. My website is currently under construction at www.alecsimpson.com
On the Artist side of the equation, I have been working hard on closing the time gap between the germination of an art idea and its actual execution. I make myself do some kind of artwork each day. And if I get a new idea about an art technique, art materials, or art process that I would like to “play with,” then I try my best not to wait another month or two to try it out. I just make myself go in there and do it. I have not been a hundred percent successful in this, but I have made real strides in this direction.
The opportunity for a one-person show came my way. This put fire under my feet to begin working in earnest on a series that I had started during a recent trip to Berlin. I needed something new to show and those works would be perfect; I now had a reason to commit to getting them done. The name of the series is: “Postcards from Berlin: Rising from the Ashes.” The works in this series are composed of materials I literally picked up off the streets, and from the gutters, of Berlin; announcement postcards from many different performance and exhibition venues, chotchkies from the colorful Turkish bazaar in the Kreuzberg section, maps, beads and colored sand from arts and crafts stores, and many other items. Some items were burned to create ashes that were mounted on Berlin post cards or card stock, and then painted with various acrylic media.
For me, the works have a universal message. We all face times in our life when we need to rise from the metaphorical ashes of whatever challenge we are facing. I am facing just such a time in my own life … taking ownership of being an artist entrepreneur, and coming to terms with what that means for me regarding making a living. For others, I would imagine that “rising from the ashes” could and would have so many meanings. Whatever the meaning, it is my hope that these works act as symbols of empowerment, courage and overcoming to face each day as a new day with potential for hope and joy, no matter the challenge being faced. The show, “Flash-back/Fast-forward: An Exhibition of Artwork Past and Present,” opens on October 10, 2009 and runs to November1, 2009 at the Corner Store Gallery, 900 South Carolina Avenue, SE in the Capitol Hill Area of the District (www.cornerstorearts.org).
As the show gets closer, I am getting photos of my work done, updating my artist bio and statement, and thinking more about the pricing of my work. I am confronting what it means to really take care of business regarding my artwork. Being an Artist Entrepreneur means managing a balancing act. That said, now that I know the name of the game I am in, I am better able to learn the rules, play well and win. This is what I am working on.
Color, energy, music – these are the elements I think of as I create artwork. My approach is akin to jazz improvisation. Once I have my “sub-text and back-story,” then process and flow become very important. For me, this means allowing materials that want to work with me the opportunity to express freely within loosely set parameters. Therefore, most of what I produce shows up as abstract mixed-media works. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Music, an art history and aesthetics M.F.A. in Comparative Arts, and an M.B.A. in General Management. For more information, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.