battered and bruised by christine clark

I’m a bit of a lone wolf in the art world. I’ve never been invited into the inner circle. I’ve never been given prizes or awards or grants. There aren’t any galleries knocking at my door. Sometimes I sell a painting or two. One time, about a year or so ago, Exchanges paid me 200 dollars for gallery fees. People I know often ask me if I’ve made any money off of art “this year”. They compare me unfavourably to other women they know, women who make a fortune selling salad at farmers’ markets, for instance.

In other words, if money is an indicator of success, I, as artist, am woefully unsuccessful. When I look into the eyes of those inquiring into my finances I get a bad feeling about myself. Obviously there’s something wrong with me. Something wrong with my art perhaps. Maybe I’m just lazy or even unlikeable. Who knows? But surely something is wrong.

The truth is, I’m poor. I’m 39 and I’m poor. This state of affairs doesn’t sit well with the greater world. Being unable to purchase plane tickets and the latest of the latest in purses and sunglasses and housewares is not an admirable position to be in. I don’t even have a credit card, so I can’t even pretend to have lots more money than I really do have.

I heard recently that in Canada, female artists, in general, earn somewhere between 10 and 20 thousand per year. Pretty small potatoes, that. At least I know I’m not alone. And maybe after all it’s our own fault, eh? Maybe we should have listened to the “dominant culture” and followed the path to a satisfying career in dental hygiene or office management instead. At least we would have been able to pay our bills. We would have been respectable members of society capable of vacationing in Mexico once a year.

Anyway, after all that, I think it’s time for me to admit that when it comes to arts cuts in BC, I am ambivalent. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see anyone damaged or destroyed. I don’t like what I heard about the Fringe Festival. Old Gordo should have given those guys some warning, and that’s an understatement. To announce cuts while the Festival is underway is sickening. Really. But let me make this clear. I do not wear flowing robes and 600 dollar eye glasses. I do not live in a half a million dollar house and I do not take spiritually enlightened journies to East Asia once a year. I am not a part of any money/art system.

I am poor and I am creative and I’ve got confidence and I’ve got hustle. Mostly I’m stubborn. And I would suggest, that for those of you afraid and uncertain in these dark dark times, cultivate your imagination and your desire to persevere. That is what is truly at the bottom of every success story. At least that’s what I‘m hoping.