A Cautionary Tale on Art, Censorship & Social Media
I’m one of those artists who’s been plugging away in the studio for the past thirty years. Part of the Art World’s middle tier, I am perpetually hovering on the edge of my “big break”, but I no longer hold my breath in wait for it. I have work in a few important collections, and a 25-page CV. I’ve won Arts Council grants in all the states I’ve lived in, I have a few nice exhibition catalogs, and have been in museum shows across the country and abroad. I hope to move up a few more rungs on the art world ladder before I die, but that’s far less important to me than consistently making work I am proud of.
Presently, all but the top 1% of artists are struggling. Several artist grants have dried up, and sales have declined, leaving creatives to expend more energy simply trying to make ends meet. So many middle-tier galleries have closed that a large number of artists like myself are managing our own careers full-time while making art. Social media has been a tremendous help in this area: I can create a new work, post it, get instant feedback, and often, within a few weeks or months, get offers to exhibit it. While a few hundred to a few thousand people might see my art “in real life” during the course of an exhibition, a strong, well-photographed image placed on social media can reach ten times as many eyes through multiple “shares”.
As artists look for new paradigms to cultivate audiences for our work, we gravitate towards platforms like Facebook. Many artists are introverts, or suffer from social anxiety. For them, social media is a godsend, because they can share what they make without awkward personal interactions and dreaded small talk. (Someone like Van Gogh, for example, would have loved it.) I’m an artist living outside of NYC, with a teaching job, a compulsive studio practice, and a child, so I rarely have time to socialize. I post on Instagram, despite the fact that I find the calculated branding, slickness and “following” games off putting, but most of my social media time is spent on Facebook. I like the longer conversational format, the ability to post multiple images / albums, and the opportunity to trade pictures and links back and forth in extended conversations. It’s become my primary source of social interaction with my peers, and my art career “distribution center”.
When it comes to my studio practice, I have always believed that art is supposed to tell the truth…