Thursday, September 12, 2019

I get to fail, a lifetime of goals

Yesterday, Daniel Johnston passed away and I was worried that his songs would sound sadder at a time where I’m looking for encouragement via brave losers, artists' artists, underdogs, and the disenfranchised who persist.1

Every pause and every lyric would be more bittersweet when there’s the added meaning that in his songs of loss, being seen as a struggling artist, he can’t feel loss anymore. I did want him to get even older and I wanted him to outlive Trump doing whatever it is that Daniel Johnston does when he’s fighting inner demons, but mostly because I’d imagine that even with climate change or other social problems becoming... eh... topical, he’d still be doing his thing, drawing superheroes, and inspiring people to do whatever it is that drives them, even if that means making art about climate charge or uh... something topical.2

In Daniel Johnston’s honor I’d like to present my version of what he inspires me to do. I’d like to share that since making a goal one year ago of applying to 18 opportunities (to put myself out there etc), I have many more than 18 failed applications. (Compared to when I usually happen to apply to 4 things in a year and 1 of them pans out, which is pretty amazing odds I must say.) I think Daniel Johnston would appreciate the sentiment and my weird form of sincerity. Also I do want to say I’m neither grasping for camaraderie, authenticity or pity, but if it’s interesting to you too, maybe you could share with everyone 10 or so things that didn’t work out but turned out ok? I’d be interested in knowing what tone of voice is our ‘Best Serious Professional Self’ and probably laugh at it.

  1. Art & Labor (End of August 2018)
  2. Guggenheim (September, did it in 1 week)
  3. Brazilian Film Festival -> Film Festival
  4. Current:LA / Arts Activation Fund (new request for the DCA)
  5. Akademie Schloss Solitude (Judy got in!!)
  6. Rencontres - Film Festival
  7. Images - Film Festival
  8. ISCP (NY) (Late December, Took 2 days)
  9. Nevada College of Art
  10. LA Creative Strategist (Late February)
  11. OTIS -- For Teaching (Yay J Moon got it!!) (Took 1 week)
  12. Knight Foundation Challenge Grant (Early May)
  13. LA Time Capsule project (Ok so technically, I got in this one, BUT it was secretly done with someone else’s artwork!)
  14. Glasgow International (Late May, Took 4 days)
  15. Bar-Fund (Early May, did it in 2 days)
  16. Navel LA Artist-In-Residency (June 2nd, did it in 1 night)
  17. Headlands (Early June, Took 2 days)

    Took a break from those art applications, and moved to art job stuff. I cold called (e-mailed) art department heads of Cal State LA, East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles Community College and Pomona College just in case they needed any last minute adjunct faculty. No responses either, but next time I'll do a better job following up. I think I got too wiped out to keep working on that whole process which took about a week to get everything together, (but more like it took me two years) and I stopped 6 short before sending out all of the applications I had intended to send out.
  18. Human Resources Symposium on new writing (Late August)
  19. Navel LA Assembly on Artists & ADHD (I thought my presentation was pretty solid,  this may be the only one I'm pretty bummed out about, and it's very recent, I just found out today)

Putting this up reminds me of people who don’t mind showing their early sketchbooks, or tell people to apply for residencies and stuff even if they haven’t gotten one themselves. Some artists refer to the confirmation of an unsuccessful application as “Not-Yet-Letters” and a stack of rejections is proof of work put in. I think I need to have the guts to fail more often and I gotta do it if I’m going to be encouraging anyone, myself included, to keep on trucking.

Maybe it’s kindof like when people devote themselves to a year of saying “Yes” but instead, it’s a year of being just a tiny bit sure that someone else is going to say YES if I can at least articulate my goals clearly, and then having to keep a good additude when it just doesn’t work out, every time. Maybe someone else might find it interesting as documentation of “things-someone-else-was-100%-convinced-was-their-best-shot-compared-to-applying-for-something-else”, and then you can imagine me sitting in a room next to you when you’re applying for stuff, both of us editing words on a laptop instead of making art, cheering each other on in between being exhausted from the whole endeavor.

I still believe this fundamental truth, if one of my close friends got the opportunity, and part of me is success adjacent, even I'm getting a little closer to my goals, and it's all good. It means that we all did our part, time to celebrate. When a good friend gets that thing to work out, the outcome is actually better than I expected! So in the cases where neither me nor a good friend gets to the second round/gets the opportunity, that can be a real bummer. But to be honest, it’s kindof rare for there to be such a dry spell that no one I know is being awarded, getting that interesting job, getting their work published, getting more support for their practice...

This is an unexpected LA feeling I think (which, still may be unique to my perspective) that when you live, make art, have friends in LA, you're around more of the types of people that apply rigorously and things are clicking just right for friends of all kinds, getting these external rewards. Some people want to gripe that it’s always the same people who get stuff, or it's more conspiratorial where the system is rigged towards affirmative action, but I don’t quite see what the fuss is all about. (I mean other than the fact that the US has a stupidly low budget for funding art and their artists among many other things)
I blindly have faith that everyone including myself would undoubtedly thrive when receiving support  in terms of time, money and/or space, but in some ways it's more of other people’s loss, rather than just my own, if the proposed art doesn’t get to see the light of day. And the same goes for if people don’t support the art practices of my friends. (I just happen to not have any close friends who make mediocre artwork?) Anyways, the whole process shouldn't re-iterate a scarcity/competitive model.

Awards and accolades are kindof just fun slides along our journey of being our own toughest critics. Winning isn’t the point, pleasure is the point.

On the other hand, fuck building character... sometimes I want to remind people about the real pain-in-the-ass part of self-care, (Half of the time I don’t really want to go to yoga, a quarter of the time my sciatica hurts to much to do anything else so it’s not exactly a choice) and I also want to remind people that technology should be used to remind people to appreciate one another when you’re away from technology. I know that’s not everyone’s biggest problem right now, but a boy can dream.

Joey Cannizzarro sent over these hilarious videos that really made me feel understood, that feeling of  when you forcibly break through ones own creative block by sheer will...

SanFear - "This is litreally every artist i know"

and there's also this gem...

Maybe who I am through my failed applications says more about how far and what I’m willing to fake, (even though you could technically fake a lot), or maybe someone/something might come out of the woodworks, like Rachel did the other day, when she let me know that all of my documentation is not quite right3, or pointing me in a different direction of a different application that is more serendipitous.

Once again, I’m taking the advice of Beth Pickens, Big Magic and Neil Gaiman, and maybe if I go a little further, maybe this was the piece I was hoping to get to after a year of applications; a signifier for a well deserved break. So now that I haven’t gotten any of those opportunities, I should have more time to intentionally do absolutely nothing, and isn’t that the bravest thing that I rarely let myself do?

No one’s yet needing what I’m offering so that just leaves me to wonder what else am I capable of when I’m not perceived as useful? One things for sure, I have a couple ideas for some bad tattoos... and it feels like this is the year.

Other little notes:
1 (don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent pro-sadness feelings)

2 (Jim Carrey’s political cartoons of Trump just don’t really cut it for me.
(And now a note on that note... Joe Baiza said I have to ignore all that rich people deciding to do painting as leisure stuff and remember/connect with why I fantasize or do creative things in the first place, like back to when i was just a little kid. When i go back my early wonder-filled moments, I recall that it was a surreal mix of play and nothingness. Baiza of Saccharine Trust, is also the third artist I’ve met so far that when I asked if he’s ever had ‘artists block’ that lasted for a bit of time, his answer was an almost absurdly abrupt “No.” It seems the only thing that stops him is carpal tunnel and too many hours at work.))

3 She wasn't being a jerk about it or anything like that, she just took a longer look at what was in the portfolios I was submitting, and what images were representing my best work, and much of the documentation minimizes, rather than reveals some crazy way of working/thinking that I do "naturally". I can kindof see what she means... but after 18 apps, everything becomes somewhat invisible... So who wants to do a studio visit with me and help me figure that out? Studio visit Tradesies?