Yesterday I was skimming through Culturebot’s site and read a quick interview with an artist. I had never heard of him and didn’t recognize his face, but I like those quick 5-question kind of interviews, so it caught my eye. Typical questions, short answers. I’m always interested to hear about what any kind of artist says when posed with questions about art v. real life issues, and with a question such as, “What do you do to make a living?” It’s something so few of us talk about.
I know hundreds of theatre artists in town and elsewhere, and I’d say that for over 80% of them I really don’t know what they do to pay the bills. And I can count on one hand, maybe two, the number who pay their bills through their art. I know that when I’m asked this question I’m often reluctant to answer, partially because I don’t find it very interesting and it’s so far removed from any creative outlet possible. Retail work, as horrible as I think that would be, might be closer to interesting and creative. On the other hand, it also depends on who’s doing the asking—they may be someone who I’d really only prefer to think of me as a theatre artist. [Although if I’m being honest I don’t think that makes much of a difference. It’s just an image I might be trying to put out there at that point.]
After the artist being interviewed (Michael Krumenacker) explained he’s done carpentry work for several years (which I think is really cool, btw) he was asked the typical follow-up question of whether he ever had to choose between his art and making a living. It was his answer that’s had me thinking for the past 24 hours:
“I used to get pissed about having to work 5 days a week at a job (with no benefits) and then come home tired and try to get some work done, but at some point a few years back I had this sudden realization that I was always working on my ‘art’, whether I was actually in my studio or hanging drywall or cooking dinner. It also hit me at the same time that I was always experiencing ‘art’ whether I was in a gallery, museum or looking at a street, a house, some trees, a mountain, a pile of garbage, whatever. This has triggered a move away from art in a way and closer to being an artist.”
I find it interesting because for most of the past seventeen years or so I’ve thought of myself primarily as an actor (and occasional director) but that’s expanded over the past couple years, and I’ve spent much of this year writing (and will do more.) This also means a good portion of my work this year has not taken place in a rehearsal room or on stage – so in some ways it didn’t feel like typical work. But, this year, because of the volume of creative challenge I’ve taken on, and because it neither killed me nor completely failed, and in fact was rather successful, I’ve felt more like a theatre artist than at points in the past.
I don’t know if what I just wrote makes any sense to anyone else.
So, in that regard, I’d like to hear more from him on this concept. Maybe he’s on to something. What’s disappointing is that the interview ends there. [I know…I just said I like the quick 5-question interview format.] I want to know more about this idea and just what he means.
Does he mean that in the past he only felt like an artist when he was actually creating something, and that during dry spells in between (presuming those exist for him) he didn’t? Is this all tied in to the concept that we’re only as valid as our work is valuable? (Kind of like you’re only as good as the last thing you did, except cutting a bit deeper.) Is this Michael guy expressing a concept that he’s found himself move into a higher self-awareness (if you will) of being an artist rather than aspiring to become an artist or perhaps rather than “a guy who does sculptures”?
Is an artist someone who, without working at doing such a thing, is always incorporating, exploring, defining and redefining art that surrounds us on a daily basis? Perhaps.