Artist Working: A Year Long Durational Performance on the Visibility of Artists and Their Identity In Community
After taking time off from work to have my second child, I returned to work as a special education assistant at the Sun Prairie High School. I provided educational classroom support to teens with emotional and behavioral issues. In my classroom I had a large white board and every morning I would do a “doodle of the day”. This was a drawing of something that was usually inspired by historical events that occurred on that day, or some current event in the news. Students enjoyed discovering the doodle of the day each morning after arriving at school and were surprised by my ability to draw. More than once I was told that I should be an Artist and then they were further surprised when I responded by telling them that “I am”.
“Artist Working” is a durational performance taking place over the span of one year. Starting January 1st 2016 through December, 31st 2016 I plan to wear a uniform with the words “Artist Working” printed on the back of a pair of white workers coveralls. I plan to wear the same pair of coveralls each and every day. I will only take the coveralls off to sleep and shower. My intention with “Artist Working” is to reveal the intersections of the artist in society. To uncover the role of the artists in our society and make visible the places in which artists are “working”. During the year, while simultaneously wearing my artist uniform, I will also engage in various jobs. I will collect lost shoes I find on the street throughout the year. I will also, work in my position as a project assistant in Student Academic Affairs at University of Wisconsin Madison, raise my children, attend graduate school, and make my artwork. Artists are in fact working among us and contributing in larger ways to the fabric of our communities. The value of artistic contributions to our social fabric is not simply in the production of commodities but in the innovation of thinking and ideas. It is a way of thinking and being in the world. Being an artist is in many cases a compulsion, but in every case, calling yourself one comes with it social and prescriptive expectations. Committing oneself to the vocation of artist has economic and social significance. As an artist that is also a mother of two, I have taken on jobs "outside of my artistic practice" to sustain myself and my family. I have never ceased to be an artist. “Artist Working” seeks to establish a perceptible, and philosophical identity for myself as artist in society. This is a statement that aims to reveal the struggle for creating an affirmative artistic identity outside the gallery and museum, while also asking the question: “what is an artist and in what spaces do we find them”? I affirm that an artist’s value is not only in the success that an artist has selling his or her work but in the act of claiming his or her identity in the realm of society. I cannot remove myself and my artistic identity from any of my daily tasks that I perform; and I want society to see the tasks that I complete in connection to my artistic practice. I am NOT trying to say that everything I touch becomes a work of art. I am; however, always working and always an artist regardless of the art markets economic interest in my work or their approval. Artists are not only in the closed studios making paintings but within the public sphere executing creative concerns.
The images, documents, and artifacts of this research of the intersections of art, artist and public life will be included in an exhibition in 2017 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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