I wrote this letter for the Spring 2015 class of School for poetic computation, a small school for art and technology in New York City I co-founded and teach at. I read this today for fifteen or so students on the final day of the ten weeks program. The student body consist of artists, engineers and many others who have not considered themselves belonging to either category. The letter was a gift for them to continue the experiment, collaborate and build art and community. For the latest from the school, check out our Twitter and Instagram.
Some things I wish someone told me when I began to make art.
When I graduated from an art school in 2004, I wasn’t sure if I was an artist, yet. I didn’t have a show lined up, I wasn’t confident in the body of work I was making, I didn’t have the connections to the scene. Looking back, I wish someone told me “Hey. You are an artist.” If a single person had been supportive of my work, it would have helped me to consider myself an artist. So, today, I’d like to tell you –
You are an artist. I approve and support. If anyone has a problem with you being an artist, they can come to me. I will fight back.
A few other things I wish someone told me when I began to make art.
- Invest in your art practice. Be generous with time and attention to your art. Take care of what you create. Be proud of it. Respect yourself as an artist. Everything you make is a culmination of many years of search.
- Start a community of your own. Name it and own it. The chances of you finding a community and being part of it, and feeling like you are at the center of it, is slim. Starting one might be easier than finding one.
- Build your own breakthrough. The recognition does not come from the outside. It happens when you are ready for it and the world is always curious.
- The success of making art is not based on sales, fame, following, but if you can connect with others through your art.
- Art is work. Very hard work and difficult work to dedicated your self to. The work may not compensate monetarily or bring immediate recognition easily.
- You know your work as an artist is worth it when you enjoy your own work and you find the process rewarding.
- Art is a way of looking at the world. It is practice — a continued act of engaging with the world and reflecting on yourself. It is praxis — a tool to bring your passion, talent, ability to good use.
- Art world. You may feel like an uninvited guest at a private party. And there is the common notion that art belongs to the privileged, the ones with an excess of time and money. Most artists I know being their career modestly, work hard to build their reputation and define their worth. Their work brings the prestige and respect — something that’s difficult to buy.
- What you are making maybe more important than what you might think of it.
- You don’t need to look like an artist, sound like an artist, live like an artist. However, if you can think like an artist, you are an artist. Unlike everyone else who’s cultural or creative, artists have a unique ability to give form to an idea. Their mind is not only flexible but plastic. It can receive and give form to an idea.