Your voice matters
Have a comment or criticism? Just want to drop David a quick hello? Itching to know more?
David personally reads and replies to all emails.
David personally reads and replies to all emails.
First I want to say to any artists reading this that you; the human being behind your work, are precious. You are the true worth of your art. Regardless of whether or not you are producing products that are selling, you as a human being are valuable.
My name is David J Landry. If you don't know who I am, I have been a fine art painter for 25 years. I created the world's largest graphic novel which to this day remains to be the largest single collection of paintings displayed in Nashville.
And in 2016 I quietly walked away from the fine art system.
I generally try to avoid being too honest with myself by hiding behind dark humor and bad puns, because honesty can feel like invasive surgery. But i think it's time to open up.
I used to believe that I would have been better off if I had more money in order to do all of the amazing art that is in my head, and I bought into the programming that tells artists the equivalent of the American Dream. Hook, line and sinker. It's a nice dream. I got really deep into the world of fine art and consequently saw from the inside how fine art products are funded and promoted.
You see, there is a very specific system in place to fund the arts. It's a very old system and unfortunately a fallible-prone system. A system which tends to reward the wealthy and has just enough room for the privileged to realize their artistic dreams. A system which tends to only value the product and leaves most artists feeling undervalued and emotionally scarred. The money that is donated to the arts by partons is funneled through this system.
Believe me when I say that this is not a knock at patrons of the arts. Patrons are awesome. They are the reason a lot of fantastic art programs exist. In fact during my time creating within the fine art system I had a tremendous amount of support from fans. I am immeasurably grateful and humbled by their support. If not for the necessity that I felt to get off the preverbial bus, that support would have kept me working in the fine arts.
I also found a lot of help from vanguards, working within the system, who put the person above the product. These vanguards work very hard at creating safe and productive environments for artists to create in. Unfortunately, as hard as they try these vanguard's hands can be tied at times when they receive their funding through grants which specify that the money they receive can only be used to buy computers or materials rather than be used to value the human behind the product by paying artists for their labor.
I'm sure it is not intentional, but when a group of people grow up believing that their only value is in the products they make, then that group of people sees little value in themselves as human beings.
Stop me if you have heard this one before, "I can't pay you but it will be good for your portfolio." or, "You need to do this for your networking." It's really a vicious cycle that will only change if the people at the top want to change.
Regretfully I had become part of the status quo in fine art; asking other artists to work for free for me in order to accomplish my own personal artistic goals. Like an abused child who grows up only to perpetuate that abuse on to others, I had become everything that I hated. Remember that really great dream? Well I woke up. When I looked in the mirror all I saw was a deuche bag. I had used my privilege as a white, Judaeo-Christian, middle class male to position myself in the system. I had placed more value on my products than the people that I had used to accomplish them. I didn't know how to navigate forgiving myself and I felt inept to fix the broken system. So I chose to simply break the cycle for myself and I walked away from fine art.
Since then a single word has followed me like a shadow. Labor. It's a word that I found to be taboo in fine art. No one wants to admit that fine artists don't get paid for their labor. Kind of reminds me of another group of people not too long ago here in America who were never paid for their labor either.
Fun fact; if artists were paid for their labor and just gave their art away they would make 3x more than they do from the sale of their art. I didn't just make that up. It's based off of actual, factual National statistics. And food for thought. The video below explains more.
I began with a note to artists and I'll close with one as well. I realize that writing this doesn't fix anything. But if you're feeling undervalued as a person, struggling to be noticed, or tired of the run around; you're not alone. And you don't have to put up with it. Just be creative in whatever capacity is available to you. Because you are important and valuable. You; not just your product.